Harry — Fix the Filibuster on Day One

On November 6th, Democrats achieved a stunning victory, but all of that will be for naught if the Senate filibuster is allowed to remain in place.  Republican obstructionists will continue to use it to “rule by the minority” and obstruct everything for at least the next 2 years, continuing to hope that they can take the Senate and hold the House.

As each session of Congress begins, one of the first items of business is to adopt a set of rules that will be used to conduct business during that session of Congress.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs to finally stand up and find the intestinal fortitude to END THE FILIBUSTER.  It takes only 51 votes to adopt the rules, and we’ve given him 53 Democratic Senators and 2 Independent Senators who will caucus with the Democrats.  So, Harry, it’s time, end it!

Oh, and while you’re at it Harry, either END SECRET HOLDS or limit the amount of time a Senator may place such a hold to no more than 3 business days and that no more that 3 successive holds may be exercised on ANY bill.  ( I suggest 3 business days because the GOP seems quite fond of the 3-day rule by which administrators at regulatory agencies must be required to take action. So if it’s good enough to require that for them, hey, it’s good enough for the Senate.)  The original intent of the secret hold was to provide sufficient time for the Senator exercising the hold to read and research the bill in question.  The GOP has abused that rule for partisan ideological gain and it has to stop. And, so we, as the interested public, can verify all are playing by the rules, how about creating a” transparency” web page listing the bills that have been held, the date the bill was “held,” and the date the hold was lifted.

Sen. Reid, YOU and you alone have an opportunity to put a stop to the obstruction in the Senate.  We’re counting on you to take action to stop it on DAY ONE of the 113th Congressional Session.

Senate Democrats Urge Support For Legislation Barring Insider Trading By Members Of Congress

PRESS RELEASE
January 30, 2012
Official news and legislative information
from Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

The STOCK Act Strengthens Disclosure Laws, Increases Transparency and Ensures that
Members of Congress Play By The Same Rules as Everyone Else

Legislation Set to Receive Key Vote This Evening in U.S. Senate  

Washington, DC—Today, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Jon Tester (D-MT) urged support for the STOCK Act, which is set to receive a vote in the Senate this evening.  The STOCK Act bars insider trading by members of Congress and their staff.

“We need to take this common sense step to begin restoring the trust that’s been lost in our government,” said Senator Gillibrand, the first member of Congress to post her official daily schedule, all earmark requests and personal financial disclosure online. “The American people need to know that their elected leaders play by the exact same rules that they play by. They also deserve the right to know their lawmakers’ only interest is what’s best for the country, not their own financial interests. Members of Congress, their families and staff shouldn’t be able to gain personal profits from information they have access to that everyday middle class families don’t. It’s simply not right  — nobody should be above the rules.”

“This law makes crystal clear that Members of Congress must not be exempt from laws everyone else has to follow,” said Senator Stabenow. “Any Member of Congress abusing his or her position for personal financial gain must be held accountable. The Senate should overwhelmingly approve this bill this week, and the House should follow suit immediately.”

“The STOCK Act brings much-needed accountability to Congress and should be an easy lift,” said Senator Tester.  “I don’t care if you work on Wall Street or in Congress – you should not be using privileged information to enrich yourself.”

Fact Sheet: Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act)

The American people deserve to know their lawmakers’ only have one interest in mind: doing what’s best for the country, not their own financial interests. The STOCK Act is a common sense, bipartisan measure that clearly and explicitlyprohibits insiders trading by members of Congress and their staff.  In addition, the bill strengthens disclosure laws so that members of Congress must report within 30 days when they buy or sell stocks, bonds or other securities, and must make that information available online for their constituents to see. 

The STOCK Act Clearly Prohibits Insider Trading in Congress.  Under the STOCK Act, members of Congress and their staff will explicitly be barred from buying or selling securities on the basis of non-public knowledge gained through their Congressional service – or from using that knowledge to tip off anyone else.  It is not true that Congress has exempted itself from insider trading laws.  However, some legal experts have questioned whether an insider trading case could be brought successfully against a Member because, they argue, it is not clear that members owe anyone a duty not to trade  material non-public information, in the same way that, for example, a corporate executive has a duty to the company’s shareholders.  The STOCK Act makes it clear that trading on non-public information would violate the duty of trust members of Congress and their staff owe their constituents by establishing a clear fiduciary responsibility. [Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, January 2012]

The STOCK Act Significantly Strengthens Disclosure Requirements.Currently, members of Congress annually disclose the purchase or sale of securities and commodities. The STOCK Act not only imposes a tough 30 day disclosure requirement, but also requires that the information is published online to ensure complete transparency and easy public access to the information. [Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee,January 2012]

The STOCK Act Requires GAO To Investigate Role Of “Political Intelligence” Firms.  The STOCK Act requires the Government Accountability Office to investigate the role of “political intelligence” firms, which try to learn inside information from lawmakers and their staffs and sell that information along to private clients. [Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee,January 2012]

House Republican Leaders Blocked the STOCK Act. Majority Leader Eric Cantor ordered Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus to cancel a publicly announced mark-up of the STOCK Act in December. “Cantor delivered the cease-and-desist order on behalf of GOP leaders, other chairmen and rank-and-file lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who were concerned that Bachus could help give the bill life by having the committee approve it.” [Politico, 12/8/11; CNBC, 12/9/11]

Heller, Romney, Payday Loan Sharks Rejoice over Senate Filabuster

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2011
Contact: Zach Hudson, Comm. Dir., NSDP
(702) 737-8683

Heller, Romney, Wall Street Execs Rejoice As Senate Blocks Wall Street Watch Dog Chief 

Las Vegas, NV – You could almost hear the cheers all the way from Wall Street after unelected Senator Dean Heller and Washington Republicans blocked Richard Cordray’s nomination to run President Barack Obama’s Wall Street watch dog agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Mitt Romney and Heller were leading the charge to kill this nomination.

Why?  Not because they found Cordray’s qualifications objectionable. But because they oppose the very idea of a watch dog agency holding their buddies on Wall Street accountable.

This should come as no surprise from a Wall Street executive like Mitt Romney, who laid off 1,700 workers in order to make a buck, or Dean Heller, who proudly voted to gut Wall Street reform as a member of Congress.

So thanks to Romney and Heller the score so far today is Wall Street: 1, Nevada’s Middle-Class: 0.  Payday Loan Sharks can continue to stiff consumers with exorbitant rates, as that leg of consumer protection cannot go into effect (as part of the Dodd-Frank legislation) until a Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is confirmed.

“Mitt Romney and Dean Heller sold out Nevada’s struggling middle-class families in order to protect their friends on Wall Street,” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson.  “Despite Nevada having the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the country thanks to Wall Street abuse, Romney and Heller led the charge to weaken the watch dog agency charged with holding reckless financial institutions accountable.  Today’s vote shows their priorities are upside-down: siding with Wall Street at the expense of struggling Nevada families on Main Street.”

Background:

Romney oversaw 1,700 layoffs in a business deal as head of Bain Capital. But an examination of the Dade deal, which Mr. Romney approved and presided over, shows the unintended human costs and messy financial consequences behind the brand of capitalism that he practiced for 15 years.  At Bain Capital’s direction, Dade quadrupled the money it owed creditors and vendors. It took steps that propelled the business toward bankruptcy. And in waves of layoffs, it cut loose 1,700 workers in the United States, including Brian and Christine Shoemaker, who lost their jobs at a plant in Westwood, Mass. Staggered, Mr. Shoemaker wondered, “How can the bean counters just come in here and say, Hey, it’s over?” [New York Times, 11/12/11]

Columnist John L. Smith: Heller Thinks Foreclosure Crisis Should Be Left To The Private Sector To Fix. In July 2011 Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith wrote, “On his website, Heller tells us where his heart is at on the issue. He cares deeply, but not enough to turn the wheels of the federal government to roll to the rescue of suffering homeowners… Yes, but what is he going to do about it? ‘We need to re-establish a housing market that has long-term stability in which private capital, not the federal government, is the primary source of mortgage financing. ‘Any financial regulatory reform bill in the future should stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, make further reforms to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and help address the struggling housing market which is especially problematic in Nevada.’ In other words, the problem should be left up to the private sector to fix.” [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/23/11]

Heller Voted to Protect Wall Street Agenda. In 2010, Heller voted against overhauling the regulation of the financial services industry, to protect consumers from practices that could threaten the economy. The bill aimed to strengthen the government’s ability to prevent future bailouts by giving the government strong new powers to restrain or dissolve large firms who failure could threaten the economy. The overhaul measure would create new regulatory mechanisms to deal with the risks posed by very large financial firms, create a new federal agency to oversee consumer financial products, and force banks and other financial institutions to hold more capital to protect against future financial upheaval.  The bill would bring the $600 trillion derivatives market under federal regulation for the first time and give company shareholders and regulators greater say on executive pay packages. The bill passed, 237-192. [CQ Today, 6/30/10; HR 4173, Vote #413, 6/30/10]

Heller’s Spokesman Said He Would Not Vote To Confirm Richard Cordray As Director Of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In December 2011 the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote, “Heller does not plan to vote for Cordray, spokesman Stewart Bybee said. The Nevadan met with the nominee, ‘and they had a good discussion,’ Bybee said. The problem is not Cordray but how the consumer agency was put together, he said.” [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 12/5/11]

Cordray’s Appointment Critical To Allowing Consumer Financial Protection Bureau To Begin Work Supervising Payday Lenders, Debt Collectors, Credit Reporting Agencies And Private Student Lenders. In December 2011 the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote, “The Senate has set a vote Thursday to confirm former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of the components of the Dodd-Frank law that was enacted last year to reform Wall Street practices. The bureau opened in July but is unable to fully carry out its job without a director, White House officials said. The agency is unable to fully supervise nonbank financial services such as payday lenders, nonbank mortgage companies, debt collectors, credit reporting agencies and private student lenders, the officials said.” [Las Vegas Review-Journal,12/5/11]

Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese: “These Institutions Affect The Daily Livelihood Of Tens Of Millions Of Americans. Without A Director To The Agency, You Don’t Have A Cop On The Beat Looking At These Institutions And Taking Steps On Behalf Of Consumers.” [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 12/5/11]


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2011
Contact: Eric Koch
702-675-6711

BERKLEY TO HELLER: STOP THE EXCUSES, STAND UP TO WALL STREET

BLASTS HELLER FOR BLOCKING WALL STREET WATCH DOG THIS AM

WASHINGTON – Today, Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley released the following statement after unelected Senator Dean Heller voted to block Richard Cordray’s nomination to the new Wall Street Watch Dog agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The nomination failed 53-45.

“As Nevada’s middle-class families struggle to make ends meet, all we hear from Dean Heller is excuse after excuse for why he can’t hold Wall Street accountable. Time to stop the excuses, Dean! After voting to gut historic Wall Street reform legislation and blocking the new Wall Street Watch Dog agency from doing its job, it’s clear that Dean Heller is willing to throw Nevada’s middle-class under the bus to protect his millionaire Big Bank buddies.”

USA Today Rips Apart Dean Heller’s Argument for Voting Against Wall Street Watch Dog Richard Cordray:

KEY POINT: For example, critics say the consumer bureau somehow isn’t accountable and can do whatever it likes. In fact, it’s the only banking regulator whose rules can be vetoed by the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a group of the government’s top financial regulators. Critics insist it’s dangerous and unusual that the consumer bureau is run by a single director instead of a multimember commission, but that’s how the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a key bank regulator, has operated since 1863. Commissions are more easily hobbled by members who seek to undermine them.

The solution, the GOP senators say, is to make the bureau more accountable to Congress. Quick now: Everyone who trusts members of Congress to write rules, with little public scrutiny, that are disliked by the institutions that fund their campaigns, raise your hands. Those would be the same institutions that want the agency weakened.

No hands? Didn’t think so.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/story/2011-12-07/Confirm-consumer-protection-bureau-director/51721834/1

Editorial: Confirm consumer protection bureau director

The consumer bureau, created in the wake of the economic devastation of 2008, is a central part of reforms designed to rein in the bad actors who caused so much misery by writing bad mortgages, creating exotic and dangerous financial products, and otherwise preying on the public. It is specifically charged with preventing financial institutions from marketing deceptive products and forcing them to clearly explain the loans, credit cards, mortgages and other products they do offer.

Given the misery the country has suffered from the government’s failure to monitor such practices, it seems a sensible addition. But it is one of the agencies Republicans in Congress most love to hate. They fought its creation, and having lost they’ve made every effort to hobble it. Today, they are expected to reject President Obama’s nominee to head the agency, not because he is objectionable but because the agency is. So they want to starve it, along with other elements of financial reform. “The less we fund those agencies, the better America will be,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell declared in June.

While GOP critics say soothingly that they’re merely trying to make the consumer agency more accountable, they clearly aim to undercut it.

For example, critics say the consumer bureau somehow isn’t accountable and can do whatever it likes. In fact, it’s the only banking regulator whose rules can be vetoed by the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a group of the government’s top financial regulators. Critics insist it’s dangerous and unusual that the consumer bureau is run by a single director instead of a multimember commission, but that’s how the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a key bank regulator, has operated since 1863. Commissions are more easily hobbled by members who seek to undermine them.

The solution, the GOP senators say, is to make the bureau more accountable to Congress. Quick now: Everyone who trusts members of Congress to write rules, with little public scrutiny, that are disliked by the institutions that fund their campaigns, raise your hands. Those would be the same institutions that want the agency weakened.

No hands? Didn’t think so.

The new agency won’t be toothless if the Senate fails to confirm its director. It can already regulate the way banks deal with consumers, and in the five months since it opened, the bureau has worked to create simplified new information for mortgages, student loans and credit cards so consumers know what they’re signing up for.

But without a director, the bureau can’t regulate financial institutions such as the non-bank mortgage lenders that contributed to the financial crisis, or payday lenders who lure desperate borrowers into exorbitantly priced loans that can trap them forever.

That would be a shame. Lawmakers should be wary of too much regulation, but if they ignore the need for reasonable restrictions they risk letting the nation get burned all over again.

Under the Reading Lamp — 11/28/2011


Despite GOP Claims, U.S. Health Care Nowhere Near ‘Best’ in the World
Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “Boehner is not the first nor the only Republican to try to make us believe that the U.S. has the world’s best health care system and that we’re bound to lose that distinction because of Obamacare. I’ve heard GOP candidates for president say the same thing in recent months, charging that we need to get rid of a President who clearly is trying to fix something that doesn’t need fixing, something that isn’t broken in the first place.”


Decade-Old Bush Tax Breaks Continue to Loom Over Budget
Lisa Mascaro, News Report: A decade later, those tax cuts continue to loom large, becoming central to almost every budget debate in Washington. Whether to maintain the reduced tax rates for wealthy Americans was a question that deadlocked the congressional “super committee” in its search for a plan to cut the government’s long-term deficit. The expiration of the tax cuts at the end of next year will be a major issue in 2012 campaign.


Wall Street Banks Earned Billions in Profits in Secret Fed Loans Made During the Financial Crisis
Travis Waldron, News Analysis: In the lead-up to the financial crisis that crippled the American economy and plunged the country into a recession, the Federal Reserve made trillions in undisclosed loans to struggling banks and financial institutions, according to official documents obtained by Bloomberg News. Six of the country’s largest banks then turned those loans into more than $13 billion in previously undisclosed profits.


Guantánamo: The Most Expensive Prison on Earth
Angela Williams, Op-Ed: “The United States has spent billions in taxpayer money on weapons, operations, and salary to support the ‘war on terror.’ However, we must not disregard the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on the upkeep and operations of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. The facility was established in 2002 by the Bush administration to hold detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and later Iraq. Guantánamo currently houses about 171 captives. It costs roughly $800,000 per year to house each captive, which includes $38.45 of food per day.”


Hunger in America, By the Numbers
Pat Garofalo and Travis Waldron, News Report: Last year, 17.2 million households in the United States were food insecure, the highest level on record, as the Great Recession continued to wreak havoc on families across the country. Of those 17.2 million households, 3.9 million included children. On Thanksgiving Day, here’s a look at hunger in America, as millions of Americans struggle to get enough to eat in the wake of the economic crisis:


After BP Oil Spill, Future Uncertain for Vietnamese Fishers
Nina Kahori Fallenbaum, News Report: When the BP oil spill started gushing into fishing waters, it hammered an industry that had been struggling for years. Until the early 2000s, the gulf provided most of the shellfish eaten in the United States. In the last decade, however, the growth of commercial fish and seafood farming in Southeast Asia (and the subsequent influx of low-cost seafood) has bitten deep into the American seafood industry.


Wisconsin GOP Faithful Stoop To New Lows In Tampering With Recalls
Segway Jeremy Ryan, Addicting Info: So what do people do when they are used to having control over everything and they see that control slipping? They cheat, that is what they are good at. Realizing that this was democracy in action and the people were about to take control, again, the GOP faithful, the few who still stand by and swear allegiance to Scott Walker, concocted a plan to try to derail the recalls. It started with complaining about how much it cost. Keep in mind this is the same party that ran fake Democrats in the previous recalls just to force an extra election.


Congressional Perks: Lawmakers’ Most Surprising Benefits
Corbin Hiar, News Report: “It’s seemingly been a pretty rough autumn on Capitol Hill. But there’s still plenty for the nation’s lawmakers to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Being a member of Congress remains a surprisingly sweet gig. In addition to the power to shape policy and public discourse, legislators get great health care and retirement benefits, hefty salaries with annual cost of living increases and the incumbency-boosting ability to blanket constituents with mail touting their achievements.”


Don’t Blame This Mess on Obama
Ruth Marcus, Op-Ed: “The collapse of the supercommittee is not Obama’s fault. If he had pushed and prodded and cajoled and horse-traded, the result likely would have been the same. Perhaps even worse, in the sense that the partisan digging-in might have been even more entrenched. For all the eleventh-hour, ‘where-was-Obama?’ moaning, the bipartisan congressional directive to the White House as the supercommittee did its work was simple: Back off.”


Foreclosed Homeowners Re-Occupy Their Homes
Zaineb Mohammed, News Report: “On Dec. 6, there will be a national day of action, ‘Occupy Our Homes,’ where people across the country facing predicaments similar to Gage and Richardson may follow their lead. Partly inspired by the Occupy movement, the day of action is supported by various community organizations like Take Back the Land and ACCE. The call to action is for people to move back into their foreclosed properties and to defend the properties of families facing eviction.”


No Country for Young Children
Jeff Bryant, Op-Ed: Speaking at one of America’s top institutions of learning, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Gingrich, who had earlier in the week bragged about being paid millions to be a “historian” for mortgage behemoth Freddie Mac, boldly declared that laws preventing child labor are “truly stupid.” So say what you will about “crazy Newt.”


Tar Sands Oil Producers Eye California
Ngoc Nguyen, News Report: “Last week, Canadian firms bought up thousands of miles of existing pipeline in the U.S. Midwest, intending to reverse oil flows southward to Gulf Coast refineries – a “workaround” that would get oil flowing in the right direction, but still not enough to accommodate the volume of crude being produced. A second – lesser known — alternative involves piping tar sands oil westward across Canada to Vancouver, where it would reach West Coast refineries by tanker.”


As the World Crumbles: the ECB Spins, FED Smirks, and US Banks Pillage
Nomi Prins, Op-Ed: “Elsewhere in my trolling, I came across a gem of a working paper on the IMF website, written by Ashoka Mody and Damiano Sandri, entitled ‘The Eurozone Crisis; How Banks and Sovereigns Came to be Joined at the Hip” (The paper does not ‘necessarily represent the views of the IMF or IMF policy’. ) In the IMF paper, the authors convincingly make the case that it wasn’t just the US subprime asset meltdown itself that initiated Europe’s implosion, but the fact that our Federal Reserve and Treasury Department adopted a reckless don’t-let-em-fail doctrine.”


GOP’s Phantom Job Losses
Michael Morse, News Analysis: “Republicans — eager to show that President Obama’s oil and gas drilling policies ‘cost jobs’ — have been using a number they now admit was more than three times too high. Even after they corrected their error (after we pointed it out), they started using a figure that is based on industry-sponsored studies, uses dubious assumptions and doesn’t apply to any jobs that currently exist.”


Pulling Accounts from the Unaccountable
Amy Goodman, Op-Ed: “Just after the financial crash in late 2008, activists in Oregon started looking into the creation of a state bank, modeled after the only state-owned bank in the United States, in North Dakota. The cities of Portland and Seattle are now looking into shifting their massive municipal accounts away from the Wall Street banks. According to one report, Bank of America may lose upward of $185 billion from customers closing accounts.”


With 50 Million Americans in Poverty, David Vitter Proposes Gutting Food Stamp Program
Travis Waldron, News Analysis: “A record number of Americans have fallen into poverty since the financial crisis sparked a deep recession in 2008, but that hasn’t stopped House and Senate Republicans from targeting the poor on their crusade to slash federal spending. In September, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) declared that “the poor are getting richer even faster” than the rich while relying on government programs, even as the number of children and senior citizens living in poverty has increased to record levels.”

GOP Scare-Care eMail Being Recycled Once Again

Yesterday, I once again got a recycled copy of the last year’s GOP ScareCare email about the evils of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act … the Health Care bill (HR3200) … with a plea that I put forth extreme efforts to help repeal the bill.  The reasonings used are pages/sections within the bill with out-of-context distortions of what those references mean.  I immediately hit the “Reply to All” button and sent each one of them the truth about each of those references in the letter.  Just in case you also get one of these recycled ScareCare emails asking you help to support repeal of HR3200, here’s a copy of my response that you are free to use in responding back to the errant forwarder:

This is about the third or fourth time I’ve seen this SCARE CARE email with absolutely BOGUS claims about the Health Care Reform Act and what it purportedly does and doesn’t do.  Most people won’t even bother to read the referenced provisions being distorted for SCARE effects, they’ll just believe it to be true.  Well … I suggest you read the actual bill like I have, before you begin believing every SCARE-CARE email that hits your inbox.  You can find the final copy of the bill here:  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-111hr3200ih/pdf/BILLS-111hr3200ih.pdf

  • Page 50/section 152: The bill will provide insurance to all non-U.S. residents, even if they are here illegally.
    There is absolutely NOTHING on page 50 that says insurance will be provided to NON-US RESIDENTS, even if they’re here illegally.  Section 152 speaks to providing health care services under this act without regard to personal characteristics, in other words, that providers will NOT DISCRIMINATE in providing services to individuals based on personal characteristics (Black, Asian, Hispanic, LGBT, etc.). If you want to determine who is eligible for coverage, I suggestion you check out “SEC. 242. AFFORDABLE CREDIT ELIGIBLE INDIVIDUAL,” on page 132, specifically states:  For purposes of this division, the term ‘‘affordable credit eligible individual’’ means, subject to subsection (b), an individual who  is LAWFULLY present in a State in the United States.  Thus, to be eligible for coverage in the U.S. under the affordable care act, one must be “LEGALLY” present in the United States.
  • Page 58 and 59: The government will have real-time access to an individual’s bank account and will have the authority to make electronic fund transfers from those accounts.
    Provisions on 58 and 59 deal with GOALS for financial and administrative transactions.  My guess here is that the reference is to paragraphs [D] and [E] on page 58 and paragraph [C] on page 59.[D] enable the real-time (or near real-time) determination of an individual’s financial  responsibility at the point of service and, to the 8 extent possible, prior to service, including whether the individual is eligible for a specific service with a specific physician at a specific facility, which may include utilization of a machine-readable health plan beneficiary identification card;[E] enable, where feasible, near real-time adjudication of claims;

    [C] enable electronic funds transfers, in order to allow automated reconciliation with the related health care payment and remittance advice.Well, if you’re designing a health care system where everybody has insurance, and thus, everybody has an “identification” card … well then, it would be reasonable to expect that real-time adjudication of claims should be possible.  They have your ID card from your insurance company, and a doctor or hospital at some point in the future as this system is implemented should be able to obtain real-time adjudication and payment for services by those doctors and hospitals from the INSURANCE company that insures you!  These paragraphs are NOT requiring individuals to provide the Government with real-time access to their bank accounts!
  •  Page 65/section 164: The plan will be subsidized (by the government) for all union members, union retirees and for community organizations (such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now – ACORN).
    (1) FOX Noise killed ACORN.  ACORN no longer exists.
    (2) Section 164 deals with rules for “Reinsurance Programs for Retirees.”  Many employers, both union and non-union, provide insurance for their employees and retirees.  Some employers provide insurance only for employees and NOT any retirees.  This Section deals with assisting participating employment-based (both union and non-union) plans with the cost of providing health benefits to retirees and to their eligible spouses, surviving spouses and dependents of those retirees.  The subsidies for retiree plans are no different than for those provided for working individuals and helps early retirees who aren’t yet eligible to apply for Medicare obtain insurance.
  • Page 203/line 14-15: The tax imposed under this section will not be treated as a tax. (How could anybody in their right mind come up with that?)Well, let’s not take things out of context.  Let’s read the ENTIRE sentence:  “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax imposed by this chapter for purposes of determining the amount of any credit under this chapter or for purposes of section 55.”  In other words, they cannot claim this tax in order to obtain a credit under this ‘chapter’ which deals with the tax on individuals who choose NOT to carry acceptable health coverage.
  • Page 241 and 253: Doctors will all be paid the same regardless of specialty, and the government will set all doctors’ fees. 
    • Page 241:  The referenced section refers to evaluation and management services that fall into the categories of “Evaluation and Management in the Health Care Common Procedure Coding System, and preventive services defined therein.  For these types of services, regardless of whether they’re performed by a family physician, emergency doctor, surgeon, or some other doctor, the service is exactly the same and shouldn’t cost more just because the person taking your temperature just happens to have a specialty.  I guarantee you that your insurance company doesn’t pay more for this type of service just because a specialist evaluated you versus a family practitioner.
    • Page 253:  “The Secretary shall establish a process to validate relative value units under the fee schedule under subsection (b).”  I’m sorry, but I would hope the Secretary would re-evaluate “mis-valued” fee schedules so that doctors are compensated appropriately, so that my insurance dollars aren’t overpaying for services, and aren’t under-compensating him/her either.  Here again, your personal insurance carrier does this function each and every day and they deny payment for any fee charged that’s outside the range they’re willing to pay. Check you EOBs (Explanation of Benefits) forms and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Page 272. section 1145: Cancer hospitals will ration care according to the patient’s age.
    Wrong!  This section within the Act deals with certain Cancer Hospitals that are charging more for services similarly performed at other Hospitals with respect to ambulatory payment classification groups.  It authorizes the Secretary to investigate why those costs exceed those charged from other hospitals and make appropriate adjustments as necessary.  Don’t believe me?  Go read it.  The link to the document is at the top of this email.
  • Page 317 and 321: The government will impose a prohibition on hospital expansion; however, communities may petition for an exception.
    Okay, here again,  let’s put this all in the context in which it’s written.  The provisions on pages 317 and 321 are provisions dealing with reporting and disclosure requirements under Section 1156 which starts on page 312:  “Section 1156. Limitation on Medicare Exceptions to the prohibition on certain physician referrals made to hospitals.”  The prohibition has to do with reporting  and disclosure requirements related to qualify for Rural Provider and Hospital Ownership Exceptions to the “self” referral prohibition.  We live in a small town in rural northern Nevada.  We only have ONE hospital.  The nearest larger city with multiple hospitals is 2.5 hours SW of here.  It’s not unreasonable that doctors, who might also be part-owners in a small town rural hospital would need an exemption from the requirements against SELF referral to a hospital in which they have an ownership interest.
  • Page 425, line 4-12: The government mandates advance-care planning consultations. Those on Social Security will be required to attend an “end-of-life planning” seminar every five years. (Death counseling.)
    Read this section for yourself.  Prior to passage of this Act, Doctors who took a serious amount of time to set down with their Medicare eligible patients to answer questions about treatment options, so those patients could they fill out their Living Wills, were NOT compensated by Medicare for that time.  A Republican Doctor co-sponsored this bill that got folded into the Health Care Reform bill:From a USA-Today Article:  Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., a heart surgeon and a co-sponsor of the counseling bill, says the legislation is aimed at promoting important discussions between doctors and their patients about critical end-of-life issues, such as having a living will. He says those discussions are a “good medical practice,” and doctors who spend time counseling their patients about their wishes should be reimbursed through the Medicare system, as the legislation allows.This section does not require ANYONE to complete an “advance care planning consultation” with their doctor.  It does however, delineate what might be covered within such a consultation and thus provides for compensation to the doctor providing such consultation.  If I was a terminal patient, I’d want my doctor to sit down and explain each and every procedure with me so I could decide at what point “I” want them to stop providing extraordinary and costly procedures to prolong a life of continuing agony.  If they’re not compensated for that time, it’s unlikely I’m going to get much information from them, and they’re certainly not going to get much from me now, are they?
  • Page 429, line 13-25: The government will specify which doctors can write an end-of-life order.
    Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve have to sit down with a group of physicians to decide whether to issue a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order on a loved one?  I have.  It’s a grueling experience where, in consultation with that group of doctors at the table, you ask every conceivable question about the likelihood of your loved one’s survivability and whether you should issue that DNR order, or whether it’s time to pull the plug.  Item (4) at the top of page 429 deals with acknowledging that the consultation being compensated may include the type of counseling that I just described.  That counseling was invaluable to me as I tried my best to make the appropriate medical decisions for my dying father. At the time of his death, those doctors were not compensated by Medicare for the time they took with me to help understand my father’s condition.
  • “Finally, it is specifically stated that this bill will not apply to members of Congress. Members of Congress are already exempt from the Social Security system, and have a well-funded private plan that covers their retirement needs. If they were on our Social Security plan, I believe they would find a very quick ‘fix’ to make the plan financially sound for their future.”
    Wrong Again:  Information regarding Congressional retirement compensation in the article below is sorely out of date.  Just like ordinary employees of companies, members of congress participate in Social Security and participate in the FERS (Federal Employee Retirement System).  So just like employees of companies, when those employees become “vested” and reach the designated age of retirement, they can draw a pension from the retirement system. The amount of a congressional pension varies and depends on years of service, age at the time of retirement, and salary.  All members of Congress pay Social Security taxes in the same amounts as they would if they were employed in the private sector at the same salary level. It’s been that way since January 1, 1984.  If people actually paid attention, they just might know these things.

Check it out in any of these references:

Congressional pay already has an annual adjustment procedure and they must vote NOT to receive that pay increase:

 As far as health care for Senators and Congressmen, they participate in the SAME health care programs as do other government workers.  They don’t get anything special just because of their “status”: