Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

SCOTUSblog’s Problem: It’s Not Incorporated [OK, I’m sure it is, but you get the point.]

Last week, the Senate Press Gallery denied SCOTUSblog’s application for a press pass, and advised us that it would refuse to renew the credential it had previously granted Lyle when it expires next month.  We were disappointed in that decision, and we are grateful for the support that we have received through social media, emails, and phone calls.

We thought it would be useful to write and explain the state of play regarding our credentialing.  SCOTUSblog is not now, and has never been, credentialed by the Supreme Court.  The Court’s longstanding policy was to look to credentials issued by the Senate.  We pursued a Senate credential for several years, modifying several policies of the blog to address concerns expressed by the Gallery.  Last year, we  finally succeeded – the Senate Press Gallery credentialed Lyle as a reporter for SCOTUSblog.  We then presented that credential to the Supreme Court, thinking that the issue was resolved.

But the Court declined to recognize the credential, explaining that it would instead review its credentialing policy.  The Court has not indicated when that review will conclude.

— An update on our press pass, Tom Goldstein, SCOTUSblog, this morning

I would joke about what happens to popular blogs when they start linking to blog posts by the likes of me on blogs like AB (talk about hoi polloi!)–or about SCOTUSblog’s need to incorporate so that it is an association of press citizens, or something (OK, I did do that in this post’s title)–but really, this isn’t funny.  At all.

Harry Reid, and also the Senate Judiciary Committee, should become involved the Supreme Court’s credentialing policy, which should not be left entirely to the Supreme Court to establish.

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Scotus Friday roundup

Pretty good company to be in!

Friday round-up

The Court’s decision on Wednesday in McCutcheon v. FEC, striking down the aggregate limits on contributions to political parties, political action committees, and candidates for federal office, continues to dominate coverage of, and commentary on, the Court.  Yesterday this blog kicked off its symposium on the decision with a foreword from Ronald K.L. Collins and David Skover; that was followed by commentary from Richard Hasen, Burt Neuborne, Ilya Shapiro, and Paul Smith.  Look for additional commentary today from Jan Witold Baran and Fred Wertheimer.  Coverage of the decision comes from Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed, Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo (here and here), ISCOTUS (video), Adam Liptak of The New York Times, PJTV (which has a video interview with me on the case), and Steven Mazie at The Economist’s Democracy in America blog.  Commentary on the McCutcheon decision comes from Dahlia Lithwick of Slate, Garrett Epps of The Atlantic, Beverly Mann at Angry Bear (here and here), and Michael Bobelian of Forbes.

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Obamacare plans bring hefty fees for certain drugs? Really? Well … it depends on what the meaning of “bring” is.

MIAMI (AP) — Breast cancer survivor Ginny Mason was thrilled to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act despite her pre-existing condition. But when she realized her arthritis medication fell under a particularly costly tier of her plan, she was forced to switch to another brand.

Under the plan, her Celebrex would have cost $648 a month until she met her $1,500 prescription deductible, followed by an $85 monthly co-pay.

Thus begins a deeply (but apparently unintentionally) confusing, yet very important, Associated Press article titled “Obamacare plans bring hefty fees for certain drugs,” published yesterday.  (The title may be Yahoo News’s, rather than the AP’s; it’s not clear.)

“‘I was grateful for the Affordable Care Act because it didn’t turn me down but … it’s like where’s the affordable on this one,’ said Mason, a 61-year-old from West Lafayette, Indiana who currently pays an $800 monthly premium,” Kelli Kennedy, the AP writer, continues.

Where, indeed, is the affordable on this one?  The essence of the article is that many people who have chronic serious illnesses, including, as Kennedy says, cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis–and who, because of a preexisting condition,had had no access to any healthcare insurance or who, like Mason (as Mason explained to Kennedy), had insurance that did not cover treatment for preexisting conditions, are being hit by a specific of their ACA-compliant plan that they did not know about when they bought the plan: an apparently relatively new gimmick insurance companies are using, by which the company categorizes some high-cost drugs as “specialty-tier” drugs and by quietly including in their individual-market plans a 50%- “co-insurance” rate for “specialty-tier” drugs.

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World Water Day

Via the UN comes a day for us to note the role of potable water and sanitation throughout the world.  We in New England are blessed with an abundance of freshwater, but other parts of the US are beginning to face real shortages where competing interests are clashing. More posts to come on particulars.

At the world level comes this note…..768 million people lack access to improved water sources & 2.5 billion have no improved sanitation.

waterburkina

The picture  frames some of the problems parts of the world face, and what struck home was the use of an active voice for the picture….the picture is courtesy of the Barka Foundation serving in Burkina Faso in Africa.

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Americans Woke Up and Realized They are Getting Screwed. Envy Isn’t the Emotion They’re Expressing

by J Tizimeskes  (who is currently juggling a job in the private sector while studying for a Wayne State MBA, getting a blog post or two in when he can. Previously, he worked for New York State and holds a Masters in Political Science from University at Albany and a biology degree from University of Toronto.)

Americans Woke Up and Realized They are Getting Screwed. Envy Isn’t the Emotion They’re Expressing.

Arthur Brooks has a column in  NY Times that I take a bit of exception to. In it, he makes the claim that envy is on the rise in America and that this is a problem.
My central issue with this is that I believe that over the past 30 years institutional and cultural shifts have resulted in an increasing exploitation of the majority of society by those at the very top of the income scale. There is no other credible explanation for why these trends are so pronounced in the Anglo-Saxon countries, with the US an outlier among this group, and so much weaker in the rest of the developed world. While there is a small shift towards inequality that is occurring across all developed nations, probably largely the result of the vast increase in labor supply caused by the development of the third world, this international component is far smaller than the country specific shifts we have observed in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain.
However, Brooks mentions none of this, instead trying to frame it as if there is a cultural shift towards envy being caused by politicians “fomenting bitterness” and reduced mobility resulting from regulations, taxes, and a lack of school choice (never mind that this agenda doesn’t well describe the policies of countries with greater mobility than us). He summarizes Alexis de Tocqueville, stating that:

Alexis de Tocqueville phrased it a little differently, but his classic 19th-century text contains the same observation. Visiting from France, he marveled at Americans’ ability to keep envy at bay, and to see others’ successes as portents of good times for all.

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Student Debt is Challenging the Reason for Getting that Long Sought After College Degree

What has changed for many of the college educated is finding themselves in debt longer than their parents were after college, being penalized for having student debt when going to buy homes, cars, etc., and in the end having less wealth and a lower salary when compared to those without a college education.

One reader’s comment. “I’ve been meaning to write back, but a large number of days on the road takes precedence. I disagree about the relevance of my experience working endless shit jobs while living in crappy apartments and eating pb&j to pay back my loans. That said, I do respect your opinion, and I hope you continue to share your thoughts about how entirely fucked up our priorities are as a Nation when it comes to education.

As my father who is in his late sixties recently said to me “sorry your generation got screwed”, something I’m quite cognizant of as I lose twenty grand selling a home to pursue a career. In the meantime, time to bust some ass and take care of what is in our power to affect. Patrick “Ripping Off College Students Economic Future”

The argument for a college education has always been the earning potential the 4-year degree holder has as opposed to those without a 4-year college degree. As more and more students have trouble buying into the Middle Class with the degree they have earned because of the overwhelming debt, the value of a college education has come into question considering the debt load carried by college graduates. What has changed in the last decade is tuition increases outstripping the cost of healthcare, the decline in state support for colleges, and the increased use of credit cards, home equity, and retirement account borrowing to fund college education. What remains after the piece of paper is passed out at graduation day is debt remaining with the student into his thirties and sometimes well into their forties.

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Here’s what “unaffordable” long-term leukemia care ACTUALLY looks like, Ms. Boonstra. And Rep. Peters.

Just when I thought I’d written my last post on Julie Boonstra, I read Kenneth Thomas’s post below, from Sunday.  The only comment to that post–mine, which I just posted–reads:

How very, very, very sad that there was no ACA during his years of leukemia treatments and hospitalizations, and that we still do not have single-payer.

And how ironic that he had the very same fatal illness that Julie Boonstra has.  I’d like to shove your post in her face, Kenneth.

I’d also like to see Rep. Gary Peters use this family’s situation in his Senate campaign ads in Michigan, and ask whether Julie Boonstra has any idea of what “unaffordable” means with respect to medical care for leukemia.

When she cut the first of her two ads for AFP in mid-February, Boonstra apparently was genuinely unaware of the full terms of her new Blue Cross plan and of the out-of-pocket-costs limitations legislated in the ACA.  And part of the reason why was the failure of healthcare.com to work in October and November and, apparently at least for Michigan’s exchanges, during early December–coupled with Michigan’s decision to not provide its exchange system through a webstie and run and operated by the state.

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RIP BartCop

I’m a little late on this, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the recent death of Terry Coppage, aka BartCop. Bart died March 5th at the age of 60, from complications of the flu, pneumonia, and leukemia.

Bart was one of the pioneers of the liberal blogosphere, starting out in February 1996 with an email newsletter that was converted to web pages by Marc Perkel. He gave much support to new bloggers, including luminaries like Digby and Atrios. Though I never knew him, I am in his debt as well. The affiliated site, Marty Pflugrath’s BartCop Entertainment, was the first to permanently and prominently link to me.

In his final column, Bart requested financial help for his wife to help pay for his medical bills. You can send a PayPal payment to bartcop@bartcop.com. If you still use checks, you could send a contribution to bartcop.com, PO Box 54466, Tulsa, OK 74155.

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Julie Boonstra Tells the Detroit News Why Her New Healthcare Plan Doesn’t Work for Her: It Requires Her to Read the Policy or Ask Blue Cross a Few Basic Questions In Order to Learn What the Plan Actually Covers and What Her Expense Cap Is.

Oh, dear. I won’t summarize this for you; you really have to read it in full.  (Or maybe just read Glenn Kessler’s article about it posted today.)

And to think I had thought Julie Boonstra’s only comprehension problem was with basic math.  Turns out she also has a problem with reading comprehension and with understanding explicit short answers to oral questions posed to, say, a Blue Cross representative. Or maybe just with recognizing that she could learn the specifics of her plan simply by doing one or the other of those things.

Hey, she could have done both!  But first she’d have to have figured out that reading her plan or asking a Blue Cross representative might provide that information.

Yep.  The Republican Party really is the party of stupid. Then again, maybe she knew all along, but thought everyone else is stupid. Okay, I’ll give in and quote this, from Kessler’s post:

Boonstra’s response to this report was that it “can’t be true” because she was worried about high expenses early in the year and because she thought one of her prescription drugs was not covered. A spokesman for Blue Cross told the News that all of her prescriptions are covered and her co-pays on the drugs would help with meeting her out-of-pocket maximum.

It can’t be true, because the truth exists not in reality but instead in her mind. Hopefully, this woman doesn’t fear a nuclear attack by Martians.  Or by the Koch brothers, although that might be prescient, if the attack is to be on, say, Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district.

Seriously, folks.  Does anyone really think this woman had no idea what her plan provided, if not when she purchased it, then sometime shortly afterward?  This new information brings into question the truth of her back-story about being unable for nearly three months to access the Michigan link at healthcare.com and gain information about available plans.  (It also raises questions about whether she is in fact receiving subsidies for her new in-any-event-lower monthly premiums, although of course there is no way to learn that.)

Let’s hear it for Detroit News reporter Marisa Schultz.  And, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Detroit newspaper market: Detroit has two longtime mainstream newspapers, the Free Press, which leans Democratic, and the News, which leans Republican, but both papers’ reporting staffs are journalists in the old-fashioned sense. They’re real journalists, not propagandists.

Yes, folks. The Detroit News leans Republican.

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How A CBS Video About An Obamacare Victim Misled Millions – Part 2 (What the ‘Victim’ Revealed in Our Final Interview)

run75441: This portion of a report by Maggie Mahar at The Health Beat Blog is a masterful piece of investigative reporting doing much of the groundwork which CBS should have performed well before going to broadcast or publication. You can begin to see how much of the news concerning the PPACA is being manipulated and distorted through media reporting without checking the facts of the story and the credibility of those interviewed both of which support the report. This is a follow-up to Part 1 Why Are So Many Americans Confused About Obamacare? How a Video Produced by CBS’ Washington Bureau Misled Millions

 

“Woman Battling Kidney Cancer Losing Company Health Plan Due To Obamacare.”

Maggie: That was the headline on a story that CBS’ Washington Bureau sent to its affiliates last fall.  CBS correspondent Susan McGinnis narrates the piece: “During the 10 years that Debra Fishericks has worked at Atkinson Realty, the company has provided group health insurance with manageable premiums,” McGinnis explains –“until owner Betsy Atkinson learned the policy would be terminated because it doesn’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

“Debra has scoured the website looking for a new policy,” McGinnis adds, referring to healthcare.gov, but “so far, she cannot afford the premiums.”

“They (premiums) just keep going up higher and higher when there is a pre-existing condition,” says Fishericks.

McGinnis wraps up the story: “Debra hopes that eventually she will find a plan that fits her budget so that she can still makes trips to Indiana –to visit her grandson.”

The camera then turns to Fishericks, sitting at her desk, looking at a photo of her grandson.

“If I can’t go to see him—that’s the worst,” she says.  And she begins to cry.

I was astonished: I thought most people understood that, under the Affordable Care Act, insurers can no longer charge a customer more because she suffers from a pre-existing condition. Later, when I interviewed Fishericks, I realized that she honestly believed she was going to have to pay more for coverage because she had been diagnosed with cancer. Like a great many Americans, she didn’t understand how the ACA would protect her. Given how hard Obamacare’s opponents have worked to obscure the law’s benefits, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.

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