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Goldman Sachs, coming under fire but why should they care?

Goldman took $13 billion of taxpayers money from AIG bailout—$13 billion which kept it alive. And it’s now back making huge profits gambling on the markets and paying out huge bonuses.

This is causing notice. Matt Tabibi wrote a wonderful article in Rolling Stone blaming Goldman for the majority of the fraud (OK, legal fraud) in the dotcom stock boom, the oil price spike, the mortgage boom & the upcoming cap & trade boom. A little taster on his blog here. Paul Krugman says essentially the same thing in his column today. And for the kiss of humorous death, here’s Andy Borowitz’ column about Goldman agreeing to take over the US Treasury—after all it’s already happened.

But the issue here is that incentives haven’t changed—other than the taxpayer has been told to give Goldman money and in return Goldman has been allowed to do what it always does. And regulations haven’t been written that will change that behavior.

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Schwarzenegger replaces most of state nursing board

Picture 2Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced most members of the California
Board of Registered Nursing on  Monday, citing the unacceptable time it takes to discipline nurses accused of egregious
misconduct.

He fired three of six sitting board members – including President
Susanne Phillips  – in two-paragraph letters curtly thanking them for
their service. Another member resigned Sunday. Late Monday, the governor's
administration released a list of replacements.

The shake-up came a day after the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica published an investigation finding that it takes the board, which oversees 350,000 licensees, an average
of three years and five months  to investigate and close complaints against
nurses.

During that time, nurses accused of wrongdoing are free to
practice – often with spotless records – and move from hospital to
hospital. Potential employers are unaware of the risks, and patients have been
harmed as a result.

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Nursing Homes Get Old for Many With Disabilities

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ST. LOUIS — Melody Ping never thought she would be trying to moveout of a nursing home. She lived in a St. Louis apartment for 19 years and worked as an
accountant until two years ago, when she lost her job. Ping, who has
multiple sclerosis, couldn't find new work. When her unemployment ran
out, she ended up on Medicaid in a nursing home.

Ping, 51, is among tens of thousands of people nationwide who want to
live on their own, but instead remain in nursing homes, rehab centers
or state hospitals, often at a higher cost to taxpayers because of a
historic bias toward institutional care.

Ten years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court said that
bias amounted to discrimination
. Now, as disability advocates
celebrate the anniversary of that landmark ruling, they worry the Obama
administration is backing away from a pledge to give more people with
disabilities the option to live at home.

As a senator, Barack Obama co-sponsored the
Community Choice Act, pending legislation that would give
Medicaid recipients equal access to services in the community and not
force them into institutions. But the administration recently said it would
not address the issue
as part of its proposed health care
overhaul.

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Head of Investigations Unit Resigns

Dca-logo BY TRACY WEBER

The head of investigations for California’s Department of Consumer Affairs has resigned, continuing the fallout from a Los Angeles Times – Propublica investigation into lengthy delays in disciplining nurses accused of egregious misconduct.

According to a spokeswoman for the California State and Consumer Service Agency, the decision by Lynda Swenson to quit was tied to revelations by The Los Angeles Times and ProPublica about problems at the Board of Registered Nursing. Most investigations of errant nurses are handled by the Division of Investigation, which Swenson headed.

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A Second City Warning to Obama

MillensonFor all those Obama-ites confident that they won’t make the same
mistakes pushing health care reform  that the Clinton administration
did, might I suggest a trip back home?

Just a few minutes into the Second City comedy troupe’s latest show, America: All Better!,
the usual japes about the Jesus-like hopes projected onto our 44th
president gave way to a quick bit about health care reform. A doctor
was telling a woman that her diagnosis gave her only three months to
live. When she pleaded for help, he told her that the good news was
that Obama’s health reform plan meant she was scheduled for her next
visit just six months from now.

Bad news for Obama — the audience laughed.

Conventional wisdom says that the shopworn distortions and
deceptions that killed health care reform in the past have lost their
sting due to combination of middle-class economic worries and soothing
on-message reassurances. Perhaps. But comedy works only when it
connects with real anxieties. The fact that Second City comics in the
heart of Chicago are successfully playing to GOP-fueled fears of
rationing should raise a bright red warning flag at the White House.

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The Tri-Committee Health Reform Bill: Implications for Children

A little more than two weeks ago the three major committees in the
House with jurisdiction over health reform put out a draft legislative
proposal, known as "The Tri-Committee bill."  We've now read the 852-page document
a few times, and think it would make giant strides in providing access
to coverage to millions more people and transforming the country's
health care delivery system.  Of particular note for kids, it includes:

  • Major expansions in access to affordable coverage for their parents and other adults.  (Click here for just a few of the articles showing a clear link between how children fare and the health and stability of their parents.);
  • Continued coverage of children through Medicaid with its strong, child-specific benefit package;
  • Increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates; and
  • A
    guarantee that no child born in a U.S. hospital leaves without
    insurance.  (For more details on these and other provisions, see our Fact Sheet on the Tri-Committee bill.)

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HELP! IS THE CBO GETTING SUCKERED?

In a comment on my previous post on
the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions reform bill, tcoyote
explained some of the political thinking behind what seem like totally
spurious cost projections. While I can readily accept tcoyote’s explanation
of the pols’ efforts to ignore reality, I’m still politically innocent
enough to want to know what the HELP bill might really cost. So I spent
some time looking at the Congressional Budget Office report on the bill. 

Here are a few things I noticed: 

  1. The “ten-year projection”
    starts in 2010, although the bill does not require insurance exchanges
    to be implemented until 2014. The result is that the projection includes
    only six years of reform (plus a lengthy transition period), NOT ten
    years.
  1.  The CBO projections
    include a $58 billion “credit” for the impact of the HELP bill’s
    proposed new long-term care program (the so-called CLASS Act). However,
    the “credit” accounts for the difference between premiums and benefits
    over the 2010-2019 period on a cash basis only. If conventional accrual
    accounting were used, CLASS would show a net cost for the period.

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Washington Post’s “Salon” Disaster and Health Care Reform

As a former citizen of the Washington Post newsroom, the recent disaster about the newspaper’s “salon” project is heartbreaking and embarrassing.

I won’t belabor the issues many others have so thoroughly covered, including today’s  “apology” by publisher Katharine Weymouth, which feels a bit short of fulsome. 

Instead I want to point out something that’s gotten lost in the media frenzy: That
the topic of the first “salon” [sorry, I find I have to use quotes when
referring to that] was to have been health care reform.

As an independent journalist [among other things] and participant in
the “health 2.0″ movement, I find this particularly distressing.

The fact that Weymouth and her team identified health care reform as
the first ripe target for a scheme to bring together “the powerful
few”: CEOs/lobbyists, “Congressional and Administration officials” and
Washington Post health care reporting and editorial staff” demonstrates
the peril faced by the group with the biggest stake in health care
reform.

I refer, of course, to patients.

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A Declaration of Health Independence

DonkemperWhen in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for individuals to dissolve their professional  bands of medical dependency and to assume among their obligations the primary responsibility for their own health to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of humankind require that they should declare the causes which impel them to seek Health Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are the freedom to direct ones own Life, to provide for ones own Health and to die with dignity—that to assist in providing such rights when otherwise unattainable, health professions are instituted among people, deriving their roles solely from the consent of the people they serve—

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Broad Agreement that Worker’s Comp Program for War Zone Workers Needs Fixing

Brink-contractor-475px-latimes

Congressional hearings generally follow a script. Lawmakers publicly
vent their outrage, administration officials offer plausible defenses,
and the outcome is inconclusive. But this month's airing of complaints
about the government's system for taking care of civilian workers
injured or killed while on the job in Iraq and Afghanistan was notable
for its unanimity.

Republicans and Democrats, Obama administration officials, private
insurance companies and injured contractors all agreed that there are
serious flaws in the Defense Base Act, [1]
a 70-year-old law that requires federal contractors to purchase special
workers' compensation insurance for employees working in war zones.

The Labor Department, which oversees the system, acknowledged that
it had failed to consistently provide for the needs of the injured.
Insurance carriers complained that tight deadlines and paperwork
requirements were outmoded for the complexities of a war zone. Injured
civilians recounted long, painful battles to get prosthetic legs,
prescription eyeglasses and other basic medical needs.

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