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Susan Estrich - Obamacare needs to be fixed

As I walked into the pharmacy, the technician who has kept track of all of my prescriptions for years was on an endless call trying to figure out who is going to deliver her baby and where.

The good news: Her new plan, which fully complies with the Affordable Care Act, provides much more comprehensive coverage and lower co-pays than the one she used to have.

The bad news: Neither the obstetrician who has taken care of her for the past six months nor the hospital where she had planned to give birth are covered by the plan.

Ouch.

Now, this young woman is really good at dealing with insurance companies. It's what she does all day long — getting prescriptions approved, figuring out why they aren't being approved, going back and forth with doctors and insurance companies about what they will and will not cover. No neophyte, she.

And as I signaled her that I could wait, that she should finish her conversation, she never lost her cool. Me, I would have been a wreck if someone had told me six months into a pregnancy that the doctor with whom I had developed a close and trusting relationship or the hospital that I had always relied on were no longer on my list, and that my choices — within any reasonable geographic distance — basically came down to six doctors I'd never heard of and a hospital I'd never set foot in.

She was not a wreck. But she wasn't happy. Who would be? Six months pregnant and interviewing doctors who are themselves overwhelmed because they are, in fact, on so many plans.

Now that the website is working and the administration is taking credit for hitting its sign-up goal and former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (who is hardly the only one at fault for all the "hiccups" or "potholes" or just plain mistakes along the way) has taken her leave, now the hard part starts.

Exactly what kind of care are people going to receive under the Affordable Care Act? And who is going to provide it?

Who knows? Certainly not most of the doctors I talk to.

I walked into one practice last week that has four doctors, and there was a big sign at the front about which doctor you could see based on which plan you are on. Not surprisingly, the most senior doctor was only seeing Medicare patients and people like me, with pre-existing, employer-provided, expensive group plans.
I walked into another practice, and the rule was basically pay as you go. No lines there.

At the hospital where I get tests, there was a big sign advising patients to call a toll-free number to find out whether the plans they are considering would allow them to continue using the hospital. The short answer is that many of them don't.

Welcome to the shakedown period. Welcome to the host of problems that need to be fixed.

While Republicans keep railing against Obamacare, the reality is that it's not going to be repealed, at least not as long as Barack Obama is in the White House. And if you ask me, not afterward, either.

I don't know anyone with a 20-something-year-old on their plan (which you couldn't do before) or with a pre-existing condition (And who, after a certain age, doesn't have some pre-existing condition?) who is yearning to go back to the bad old days when gastritis, not to mention heart disease or cancer, could make you uninsurable. There are many features of the new system that most of us would agree are better than those of the old one.

But not all. The business of what doctors you can see, what hospitals you can use — very big problem. The waiting lines for doctors who accept all kinds of plans — very big problem. The confusion and expense of having a "new" plan that costs more because it covers services you don't need and at the same time forces you to leave the doctors who know you — not so good.

"Mend it, don't end it" used to be the Clinton administration's slogan about affirmative action.

Obamacare should not be repealed, and it won't be. But it needs to be fixed, and that's not a problem the IT guys and girls can solve. So fasten your seatbelts. We're in for some rocky times, and the politicians and leaders who focus on trying to solve the problems, rather than trying to score points off of them, are the ones who deserve our support.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 10:43

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Froma Harrop - Lessons not learned in Boston bombing

Airport gift shops throughout New England are piling "Boston Strong" T-shirts in vivid colors. "Boston Strong" became a rallying cry of solidarity after the terrorist bombing last year at the Boston Marathon.
As the anniversary of the attack — and the next race on April 21 — approaches, emotional coverage of the event and aftermath is reaching feverish levels. A multipage spread in The Washington Post, "How Boston Stayed Strong," heaves with charged language: "harrowing," "carnage," "horrific."
So it's really odd to see these pained reminiscences alternating with rebukes of a National Security Agency surveillance program designed to prevent such assaults. Actually, the disconnect is something to behold.
One hears Rep. William R. Keating, D-Mass., complaining that federal agencies could have prevented the bombing. They did not heed warnings from Russian intelligence that one of the suspected bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was becoming radicalized.
But nine months earlier, Keating voted for the Amash amendment, which would have closed down the NSA's collection of phone and other records. (It bears repeating that the agency may not listen in on the actual content of such communications without a court order.)
Fortunately, it was defeated by a coalition of Republicans and Democrats ready to brave the hysteria — unleashed by ambitious populists and conformist media too lazy to examine the realities of national security in the age of widespread spy technology and terrorists armed with explosive devices far scarier than weaponized pressure cookers.
So what will it be? Are Americans to rely on Russian spies, with their own agendas, to keep them safe? By the way, the Russian security apparatus is famously insensitive about people's privacy.
Okay, but what good is the NSA program if it didn't catch the Tsarnaev brothers before they acted? Bad question. The agency doesn't "see" everything.
"No, NSA ops should not have been expected to 'catch' Tsarnaev online, because that's just not how NSA does its job," John Schindler, intelligence expert at the U.S Naval War College and former analyst at the NSA, told me.
"(The) FBI would have had to have tipped NSA off first, as seems not to have happened. Ball to FBI."
The NSA said it did use the program to rule out the likelihood of a second strike in New York City.
Meanwhile, Americans must better steel themselves against terrorism. Only three people died in the marathon bombing. I hesitate to use the word "only,'' because every death was a tragedy, and dozens of others were grievously wounded.
But during this month's Afghan elections, at least 47 people were killed. And terrorists across the globe are massacring innocents by the dozens on a daily basis.
When a cafe is bombed in Israel, the blood is immediately scrubbed away, and shattered windows are replaced. By the next day, the place is open again for business. Shrugging it off lessens the bombers' reward in inflicting pain.
By contrast, Boston virtually shut down for days after the bombing. Cellphone service choked. Bostonians were rushed indoors. There was no Amtrak and almost no taxis. Schools and businesses closed.
Of course, the NSA should not be allowed to do anything it wants. Nor should we ignore the potential for abuse, given the march of progress in photo recognition software, DNA analysis and such.
But that Americans are shuffling aside the memory of Sept. 11, 2001 — the outrage that launched the NSA program — is a wonder. The idea that we are magically protected seems a weird offshoot of "American exceptionalism."
Deep thinking on how we can confront the threat of terrorism is in order for the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. Grown-ups can work with nuance.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Monday, 14 April 2014 08:29

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Michelle Malkin - Aunt Zeituni's legacy

Zeituni Onyango, President Obama's illegal alien aunt, died this week of cancer and other complications. I hope she rests in peace. America, however, should be up in arms.

Auntie Zeituni is an enduring symbol of all that is wrong with this country's immigration "policy" — or rather, its complete lack of a coherent, enforceable system of laws and rules that puts the national interest first. She was a beneficiary of the welfare state run amok, enabled by bipartisan fecklessness. To the bitter end, she bit the hand that fed her with predictable ingratitude and metastatic entitlement.

Zeituni's 14-year illegal overstay is a reminder that our temporary visa program is an abysmal joke. Like millions of foreign students, business people and tourists to this country, Auntie Zeituni obtained a short-term visitor visa in 2000. It had an expiration date. She was supposed to go back to Kenya in two years after traveling here with her son, who had been accepted at a college in Boston.

But like millions of other "temporary" visa overstayers, Auntie Zeituni never went home. And despite billions spent on homeland security and immigration enforcement, no one ever went looking for her to kick her out of the country after her time was up.

Auntie Zeituni had no job skills, no special talent, no compelling reason to keep her here in America as an asset to our culture or our economy. She didn't value the American Dream. She was a dependency nightmare. She collected $700 a month in welfare benefits and disability payments totaling $51,000. Somehow, Auntie Zeituni also drummed up money to apply for asylum and finagled her way into both federal and state public housing in Boston.

She contributed nothing to this country. The only "work" she did was gaming the system, complaining about her lot and blaming everyone else for her problems while they subsidized her 14-year illegal overstay.

Auntie Zeituni's ridiculous asylum application and what happened afterward are reminders that our asylum and deportation systems are appalling jokes. Auntie Zeituni's bogus request was rejected by the immigration court system. A judge ordered her to return to Kenya in 2003. She appealed.

She lost. A judge again ordered her to leave in 2004.
But Auntie Zeituni never went home. Like an estimated 700,000 other deportation absconders, she evaded the judicial order for nearly a half-dozen years and continued to feed at the government trough. When the Bush administration had the chance to put the pedal to the enforcement metal in 2008, they caved. Pandering to pro-amnesty forces, Bush officials issued a 72-hour cease-and-desist order to all fugitive apprehension teams to spare Obama embarrassment over his auntie right before Election Day.

As an Immigration and Customs Enforcement source told me at the time: "The ICE fugitive operations group throughout the U.S. was told to stand down until after the election from arresting or transporting anyone out of the U.S. This was done to avoid any mistakes of deporting or arresting anyone who could have a connection to the election, i.e., anyone from Kenya who could be a relative. The decision was election-driven." Such stand-down non-enforcement orders are standard operating procedure in Washington.

Auntie Zeituni's illegal activity and ingratitude were rewarded time and time again. She got multiple bites at the immigration court apple, where it ain't over till the alien wins. Despite twice being ordered to go home, the feds allowed her bogus case to be reopened. After breaking visa laws, campaign finance laws (she donated illegally to Obama three times), deportation rules and judicial orders, she was allowed to have yet another hearing. Her manufactured claim of a "credible fear of persecution" in Kenya made a mockery of every legitimate case for asylum or refugee status.

"If I come as an immigrant, you have the obligation to make me a citizen," Auntie Zeituni demanded. She griped that America had "used" her and then cashed in on a book about her travails called "Tears of Abuse". And then, after a decade of doing absolutely nothing to enhance the well-being of our country, she received a coveted green card in 2010.

Neither Republican nor Democratic leaders in Washington had the will to kick this trash-talking freeloader (or her drunk-driving, deportation-evading, amnesty-securing deadbeat brother Omar Onyango) out of our home. Auntie Zeituni's story is a disgraceful reminder that the only thing worse than the ingrates thumbing their noses at our immigration laws are the people in power on both sides of the aisle enabling them.

Open-borders bipartisanship is suicide.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Pat Buchanan - In Silicon Valley, they burn heretics

"There is a gay mafia," said Bill Maher, "if you cross them you do get whacked."

Maher, the host of HBO's "Real Time," was talking about the gay activists and their comrades who drove Brendan Eich out as CEO of Mozilla. Eich, who invented JavaScript and co-founded Mozilla in 1998, had been named chief executive in late March.

Instantly, he came under attack for having contributed $1,000 to Proposition 8, whereby a majority of Californians voted in 2008 to reinstate a ban on same-sex marriage. Prop 8 was backed by the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church and the black churches, and carried 70 percent of the African-American vote.

Though Eich apologized for any "pain" he had caused and pledged to promote equality for gays and lesbians at Mozilla, his plea for clemency failed to move his accusers. Too late. According to The Guardian, he quit after it was revealed that he had also contributed — "The horror, the horror!" — to the Buchanan campaign of 1992.

That cooked it. What further need was there of proof of the irredeemably malevolent character of Brendan Eich?

Observing the mob run this accomplished man out of a company he helped create, Andrew Sullivan blogged that Eich "has just been scalped" by gay activists. Sullivan went on: "Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole thing disgusts me, as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society."

Yet, the purge of Eich, who, from his contributions — he also gave to Ron Paul — appears to be a traditionalist and libertarian — is being defended as a triumph of the First Amendment.

James Ball of The Guardian writes that far from being "a defeat for freedom of expression," Eich's removal is a "victory — the ouster of a founder and CEO by his own people, at a foundation based on open and equal expression."

Eich's forced resignation, writes Ball, "should be the textbook example of the system working exactly as it should."

Ball seems to be saying that what the gay mob did to Eich at Mozilla is what the heroes of Maidan Square did in driving President Viktor Yanukovych out of power and out of his country.

This is how the democracy works now.

Mitchell Baker, the executive chairwoman of Mozilla Foundation, who escorted Eich out, said in her statement: "Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard."
George Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour.

What Baker is saying is that you have freedom of speech, so long as you use your speech to advocate equality.

And what do we do with those who use their freedom of speech to express their view, rooted in religion and history, that traditional marriage is not only superior to same-sex marriage, the latter is a contradiction of the natural and moral law.

And what of those institutions that teach and preach that outside traditional marriage sexual relations are wrong?

One such is the 2,000-year-old Catholic Church whose 1976 catechism, "The Teaching of Christ," describes homosexual acts as "sexual vices" and "sexual perversions."

Is that just yesterday's church and yesterday's belief?

Well, one of the compilers of that catechism was Donald W. Wuerl of Angelicum University in Rome, who would appear to be the same cleric as Cardinal Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., who is now one of the inner circle advising Pope Francis I.

Yet, it is not only Catholic, Mormon, Evangelical and Protestant churches that believe this, but the Islamic faith, perhaps a majority of Americans, and more than a majority of the world's peoples.

Up until last year, Barack Obama opposed same-sex marriage.

What the Brendan Eich episode teaches us, where a man was driven from a position he had earned, because of his beliefs, and was abandoned and left undefended by false friends and gutless peers in Silicon Valley, is this: In the new dispensation, opposition to same-sex marriage disqualifies you from leadership and may legitimately be used to bring about the ruin of your career.

This is the new blacklist.

The old blacklist declared that if you were a member of the Communist Party that toadied to Stalin, and you refused to recant and took the Fifth Amendment, you would not be permitted to work in Hollywood. We are Americans, said that Hollywood, and we believe in American values.

Now, nearly seven decades later, the Stalinists of the '40s are martyr-heroes in Hollywood. And in Silicon Valley conservatives and traditionalists who oppose same-sex marriage are to be denied top jobs and driven into social exile.

The new blacklist means that while diversity of races, genders and sexual orientations is mandatory, diversity of thought and opinion is restricted. In Silicon Valley, they burn heretics.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Froma Harrop - U.S. & Canada: Together at last?

What country do Americans overwhelmingly like the most? Canada.

What country do Canadians pretty much like the most? America.

What country has the natural resources America needs? Canada.

What country has the entrepreneurship, technology and defense capability Canada needs? America.

Has the time come to face the music and dance? Yes, says Diane Francis, editor-at-large at the National Post in Toronto. Her book "Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country" is both provocative and persuasive.

"The genius of both societies is that they are very good at assimilating people from all over the world," Francis told me. "So why can't they do it themselves?"

Relatively small differences are why. Canadian intellectuals have long portrayed the United States as their violent, unruly twin. Many conservatives in this country, meanwhile, deride Canada as the socialistic land of single-payer medicine, gun control and other heavy regulation.

"I don't buy the narrative of American exceptionalism or Canadian superiority," says Francis, a dual citizen (born in Chicago). "Both have good points and bad points."

Americans close to the border already think a lot like Canadians, she notes. Some northern states actually have more liberal laws and lower crime rates than Canada's. "They are more Canadian than Canadians."

But set aside these "local" considerations. There's a big, scary reason the countries should merge: to create a united front against outside aggressors, especially China and Russia. These countries' sights are set on Canada's rich and poorly defended open spaces.

"Neither nation upholds the same values as Canadians or Americans," Francis writes, "and they represent Trojan horses that are eager to partition an already weak, fragmented Canada."

She goes on: "China has targeted Canada for years because of its enormous oil sands, its undeveloped resources, its dominant Arctic position, its backdoor entry into the U.S. market and technology sector, and its vast landmass capable of supporting millions more people."
For example, China's state-run oil company was able to buy Nexen, the Canadian oil giant, for $15 billion — despite loud public opposition and warnings by Canadian intelligence. China got a trade deal giving it special market access for 31 years, while Canadians are still banned from buying China's iconic corporations.

Meanwhile, the melting Arctic is exposing massive resources. Canadian blood pressure rose when Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov announced, "The Arctic is Russian" — and then his sub planted a Russian flag on the seabed.

Canada can hardly defend its territory in an age of resource grabbing while ranking 14th in defense spending and 74th in military manpower. Only the United States can do that, which, of course, it's been doing all along. Americans are tiring of providing free rides to other countries.

The United States and Canada could reach the altar by several paths. One would start with a single currency, move to a customs union and end at political union. Europe is already at monetary union. "The countries have different health care systems, different taxes, but there's no border."

What does each partner have to offer? "Canada's best assets include its resources, stability and banking system, its strong relationship with the United States and an educated, law-abiding people," according to Francis.

America offers a culture of risk taking and entrepreneurship. It leads the world in technology and defense.

"There's no excuse for two countries as similar as us to not get rid of the border after 26 years of free trade," Francis says.

A merged Canada and U.S. would occupy more land than Russia or all of South America. It would become an energy and economic powerhouse less subject to foreign intrigue.

And few countries would mess with either of us.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 295

 
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