HHS to Review Health Care Regulations

May 26, 2011 by

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This morning Deputy Secretary Bill Corr released a statement announcing the Department’s plan to retrospectively review existing health care regulations. Regulatory review is about as much fun as filing taxes while undergoing a root canal… an unmedicated root canal. But the Administration’s willingness to undertake such a painstaking process is yet another sign of their commitment to providing all Americans with healthcare that is economical, efficient, and, most importantly, effective.

Regulations are the flesh on the bones of law. After Congress passes a law, executive branch agencies are left to formalize specific requirements. For example, the health reform law talked about creating accountable care organizations but the small details were announced late this spring by HHS. How much detail? Try 429 pages of proposed regulations to clearly outline the plethora of requirements for such organizations.

Of particular interest to me is the interplay between Medicare (which typically covers older adults and some persons with disabilities) and Medicaid (which typically covers low-income children and their parents and people in institutional-level care, such as nursing homes). As our population ages, we’ll have more people eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. In theory, whatever isn’t covered by Medicare should be paid by Medicaid. In reality, these programs don’t always play nicely since what Medicare covers differs from what is covered by Medicaid.

Even more complicated and increasingly common are people who have private insurance or military benefits and are eligible for Medicaid. Trying to coordinate benefits between private insurers, especially those not covered by the complex ERISA rules, and Medicaid is becoming a time suck for states.

The attention to telemedicine is interesting too. Historically, Medicaid and Medicare refused to pay non face-to-face services. In the last few years that has changed and some states are using telemedicine to overcome health care shortages — an area that is also under exploration as it has been three decades since we first defined “shortage area.”

I think it is excellent that the administration is undertaking this project in light of so many regulations to come: final regulations for ACOs, regulations on the basic benefit package, etc. Attention today will prevent confusion and lawsuits later.

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Barack Obama, of the Moneygall O’bamas

May 23, 2011 by


 

I have a special place in my heart for Ireland. My two youngest kids were champion Irish dancers and both visited Ireland to compete in the World Championships. The people of Ireland are generous, happy, and above all, they treasure family. So when they discovered that President Obama has Irish roots, they invited him to visit his ancestral town of Moneygall before giving a great speech to thousands in Dublin.

I've clipped part of the intro leading into his rim shot opener:

"My name is Barack Obama of the Moneygall Obamas. I've come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way."

At the end of his speech, he invoked the ever-familiar "Yes We Can" slogan, while holding Ireland up as an example of a country who has managed to arrive at peace through negotiation. He also reminded me of the candidate Obama in 2008 as he talked about defeating cynicism and naysayers to move ahead.

It was a goodwill speech, and there was much good will, which is a nice reminder of why we elected him. 

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Poor Newt Gingrich. He Just Wants to Be Loved.

May 12, 2011 by

Newt gingrich Newt Gingrich will never be the President of the United States.

I sound pretty sure of that, don’t I? Do I know something the other pundits don’t? Do I have some nugget of inside information that’s tipped me off to a secret Gingrich ruse?

Sort of. The secret is this — Newt Gingrich is Newt Gingrich.

Infamous as an ethics violating Speaker of the House, notorious for the way he conducts himself in marriage and hypocritical in trying to bring down Bill Clinton for marital indiscretions even as he was in the middle of his own affair with the woman who is now his third wife.

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After Osama bin Laden’s Death, Time to Restock the Emergency Kits?

May 2, 2011 by

Osama bin Laden caricatureOsama bin Laden is dead.  Do you know where your duct tape and canned foods are?

The man we've been tracking for a decade, and the reason so many American lives have been lost in Afghanistan and Iraq, has finally been taken out by Navy SEALS in a Pakistan mission worthy of a Tom Clancy nail-biter.

Cheering crowds celebrated the mission in Washington, D.C. and New York City after President Obama announced late Sunday night that the face of evil we've been chasing for a decade had been killed and buried at sea.

I'm sure that many of us thought this day would never come and that at some point we would read about bin Laden's death from old age in a cold, lonely cave somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan, a disappointing coda to America's anti-terror efforts.

Seeing news reports of the daring raid brings back vivid memories of the days immediately after the 9/11 attacks. None of us will ever forget what it was like to live through that fear, especially here in the shadow of the nation's capital when, for months, the constant hum of fighter jets in the sky became as common as the sounds of neighborhood kids playing outside my house on a warm spring day.

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President Obama Shows Off His Comic Timing at White House Correspondent Dinner

May 1, 2011 by

I was originally going to use the phrase "President Obama Kills" in the title of this post, which is how standup comedians often describe a winning performance. But I thought better of that, given the Right's tendency to seize upon ridiculous rumors and repeat them until half their constituency believes them to be true.

The President once again displayed terrific comic timing at Saturday's annual White House Correspondents' Dinner:

There are some who feel that this type of event, where our leaders entertain and hobnob with journalists and celebrities, is in poor taste — especially when the American people are suffering from high unemployment, the effect of three or four wars (depending upon who's counting) and natural disasters (such as the horrific tornadoes that killed hundreds of Americans in the South last week).

That's a good point. However, I think one of the best qualities of the American people is our sense of humor, and the ability to laugh, even when it hurts. Life's funniest moments are the ones that touch your heart. It's hard to keep your head up when you're dealing with unrelenting tragedy; I see nothing wrong with a few hours of levity — so long as the comedy is not insensitive to people who are hurting.

Besides, this was a show a liberal could really love. President Obama's routine allowed him to get a few digs in to those who must have gotten on his nerves at least a bit over the last three years: Fox News, Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, and most pointedly, Donald Trump, who didn't look happy at being the butt of so many jokes. Emcee Seth Meyers dug in even deeper.

The President's jokes had to have been written by pros: after last year's dinner, Mediaite outed Daily Show contributor Kevin Bleyer as Obama's joke writer, and while so far no one has come forward claiming authorship for last night's performance, it was too funny to have been penned by amateurs. 

I know this from experience. Back in the mid-80's, I worked as a writers' assistant on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, with a head writer who had worked in the Nixon White House ("I know a lot of jailbirds," he once told me). He continued to keep his hand in politics by moonlighting as a joke writer for the then-current occupant of the White House: Ronald Reagan.

So whenever there was a special event that required the politicians to get up and do a monologue or sketch, my boss would pull me off Tonight Show business to type pages he'd written for his friends in Washington. 

And I remember his return from one year's Gridiron Dinner, where he'd been a guest of his good friend, the then Vice President, George H.W. Bush. He'd contributed material to both members of the ticket that year. "Reagan killed," he said (yes – using that word). But Bush didn't have the President's communication skills, especially the ability to tell a joke. "I told George not to give up his day job," my boss said.

Standup comedy is scary, even for someone accustomed to public speaking. Once again, the President makes it look easy.

See the entire 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner at C-SPAN.

Donna Schwartz Mills co-hosts the MOMocrats' weekly BlogTalkRadio Show, MOMocrats MOMochat. She also writes at her personal site, SoCal Mom.

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MOMocrats Live Chat: State of the Union 2011

Jan 25, 2011 by

Please join our live coverage of the president’s State of the Union speech tonight at 9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CT / 6 p.m. PT. 

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