Archives for category: Health Care

Once again, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to move the country backward by repealing “Obamacare”, even after the Supreme Court upheld it. Our representative Chris Gibson was among the reactionaries voting to undo health care reform, despite the fact that the people he ostensibly represents have some of the poorest health care outcomes in the state. Gibson has been cheered on by a band of hill country Greene County zealots who seem oblivious to their own best interests.

The Blue team obviously has a lot of work to do. Locally, it’s important to counter the hysterical rants these dimwits regularly submit to the local press. Try to be polite when doing so … it’s not always easy.

Nationally, we need to elect Julian Schreibman this November and send Gibson packing. That will better serve our county’s residents in many important ways, including health care. Even those residents too blinded by Tea Party slogans to recognize genuine progress when it occurs.

Here’s another excellent and timely post from our Columbia County correspondent, Lee Jamison. She’s writing about the lack of genuine broadband options in our region, and what can be done about it. This is an issue that BlueInGreene will return to repeatedly as November approaches, since NY-19’s Democratic candidate for Congress Julian Schreibman is open to real solutions, rather than simply paying lip service to the crying need we have.

Lee’s post:

More faux-Broadband, this time from Fairpoint!

How many Stuyvesant residents got a huge postcard mailer in their box today touting:

Lightning fast 7Mbps Broadband Internet
Now with a price-lock guarantee for 18 months $29.95/month

Wait a second! I’m already a Fairpoint customer—so how come I don’t have 7Mbps?

I double checked my internet speed at http://www.SpeedMatters.org.
—4.7 Mbps for download
—.09 Mbps for upload

My speeds are worse than the averages for NYS, worse than averages for the entire USA (5.2Mbps). Japan (15.9 Mbps) and South Korea (20.4Mbps) leave everybody in the dust! Gasp! And here I thought the USA was #1 in all things techie?

So why don’t I have 7Mbps? My physics teacher friend, Christian, had the answer, “Read the fine print!”

Sure enough, there was fine print on that card:

“…taxes and additional charges may apply. Not all services available in all areas. Available speeds may vary depending on customer location. Speed and uninterrupted service are not guaranteed…”

Fairpoint reported losses of $46.7 million in the 1st quarter of 2012. Sound bad? It was better than 2011 4th quarter, when they lost $84 million.

Nevertheless, Stuyvesant does have fiber optic cable running along the CSX(Amtrak) Right-of-Way and Rt9—with no public access. Who uses it? Who paid for it to be put in? How do we get access? Wouldn’t it be good for business?

Ontario County, NY built their own “middle-mile” fiber optic cable system for an investment of around $5 million for a 200 mile ring.
Axcess Ontario Officially Complete | Community Broadband Networks

Anybody think the Board of Supervisors might ask some questions?

Rural Electrification went through Congress in 1936 during the Great Depression. Surely our Congress could manage real Rural Broadband for the economic development of Hudson Valley. Even our current Tea Party Congressman says he’s for Rural Broadband. But we need more than just lip service to make it happen, and we probably need healthier, better managed companies than Fairpoint.

—Lee

Few people expected today’s surprise 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding President Obama’s health care overhaul law. Fewer still expected that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. would cast the deciding vote in upholding the law. It is a solid victory for the Blue team, and a boost for the president in this election year.

There are, however, complications. The major one is that the court rejected Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce as the basis for the health care law’s individual mandate to purchase insurance. This time, Roberts sided with the court’s conservatives in the 5-4 decision.

But the individual mandate was upheld, on the basis of the government’s ability to impose taxation. By viewing the mandate as a tax, Chief Justice Roberts was able to support it.

The commerce clause rejection was not good news. It had been used for a wide range of prior federal actions, including some civil rights laws, and the court’s decision will doubtless result in many new challenges to those actions.

For those who view U.S. history as a halting process of two steps forward, one step back, this is an historic day. Assuming the far right and the Tea Party can be held back at the polls this November, it means the U.S. will join all other wealthy Western nations in offering its citizens something reasonably close to universal health care. Could it be better? Sure. But this is a major, major accomplishment.

You’ve got to give Joel Tyner credit for gall. His campaign has managed to crank out a misleading, pre-primary robocall blast to Democrats throughout NY-19, in which Tyner says:

“Hi, this is Joel Tyner, a populist, progressive Democratic candidate for Congress in the 19th District, currently in my 5th term in the Dutchess County Legislature. I believe in core Democratic values. Unfortunately, my opponent says the jury is still out on fracking; I know it should be banned. I also stand with Maurice Hinchey, unlike my opponent, for Medicare for all and bringing back FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act to break up the big banks. Vote for me June 26th to be a strong voice for you and not an echo.”

This is blatant overreach (much like Tyner’s entire campaign). In the first place, he is misquoting Julian Schreibman on the fracking issue, by taking a radio interview comment out of context. He has been doing this for quite some time now. Julian Schreibman is against fracking. He knows it threatens our water supplies, and he doesn’t believe it offers economic benefits for New Yorkers. At an event in Catskill this past Sunday, Julian spelled it out: “fracking is bad for New York.”

Tyner is also overreaching by calling for universal Medicare when the health care reform we already have, along with Medicare itself, is under serious attack. And that points out a major distinction between these two candidates.

On the majority of issues, both Tyner and Schreibman are in close agreement. But Tyner is standing on his progressive soapbox as a longtime local legislator, while Schreibman has the organization, the resources, the experience and the political expertise to actually win against Chris Gibson this November.

Julian Schreibman held another “meet & greet” this past Sunday, at the Brik Gallery on Main Street in Catskill. It was an apt setting—Main Street had rebounded and was doing fairly well prior to the financial crisis; now it is a collection of largely empty storefronts where businesses, restaurants and galleries used to be (including Brik). This made Main Street an ideal setting for the recent, innovative “Wall Street to Main Street” exhibition put on by the Greene County Council on the Arts in collaboration with the artistic wing of Occupy Wall Street. Many of the window displays from that recently concluded exhibition remain, as the photo below demonstrates.

The Writing's on the Wall (or Window)
The Writing’s on the Wall (or Window)
Photo: John P. O’Grady

Mr. Schreibman spoke movingly, as though inspired by the reduced state of the street outside. He railed against America’s growing economic inequality, and vowed to do everything he could to address it. He also:

  • Spoke in favor of the DREAM Act
  • Firmly renounced fracking as bad for New York
  • Emphatically renounced policies of torture and rendition in America’s endless wars (this, in reply to an inquiry about his CIA background, which had nothing to do with field activities)
  • Explained how grateful he was for the help he received in getting a good (Yale) education, and described his belief that every American should be entitled to a chance at the same opportunities he had
  • Denounced our current Republican Congressman for voting against the interests of the 19th District
  • Announced strong support for new policies to stimulate economic growth in our region, including support for family farms and a strategic rural broadband initiative

It was another strong performance by a candidate whose appeal only continues to grow.

BlueInGreene couldn’t let this day pass without saluting our friends and colleagues in the various Occupy groups, who have done so much to bring America’s growing inequality to mass attention. If there is any hope for our two-party political system, it has been born on the streets.

As an example of the great influence Occupy has wielded, here is an angry, profane and engaging article by best-selling American novelist Stephen King on the subject of unequal taxation. Spoiler alert: a quote from the essay’s last paragraph is coming up.

Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. Their response was either Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”) or Ebenezer Scrooge (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isn’t fairly addressed, last year’s protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head.

Think about it.

Recently, a Republican constituent of Representative Chris Gibson here in Greene County emailed him to ask for more information on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka “Obamacare”. The Congressman provided an in-depth response, attaching six PDF reports from the Congressional Research Service.

Reports from the CRS are, as Wikipedia puts it, “highly regarded as in-depth, accurate, objective, and timely, but as a matter of policy they are not made directly available to members of the public”. So even though Congressman Gibson told his constituent to “please note below the specific [Republican] defunding that has been enacted into law over the past year and a half,” the inclusion of the hard-for-the-public-to-obtain CRS reports is a civic good deed. (By the way, this constituent forwarded Gibson’s response to some 200 recipients and asked them to share it, which is how we wound up with a copy.)

Whether you agree with many on the left that the Affordable Care Act does not go nearly far enough or whether you agree with most on the right that it represents a horrifying Socialist intrusion into individual liberties, now you can read the facts surrounding the law for yourself, in great detail. Links to each of the six CRS reports appear below.

Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Private Health Insurance Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)

Health-Related Revenue Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Medicare Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA): Summary and Timeline

Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Provisions in ACT: Summary and Timeline

Public Health, Workforce, Quality, and Related Provisions in PPACA: Summary and Timeline

The ideas behind Rebuild the Dream—and specifically, the Contract for the American Dream—were what got this group started. Now those ideas are fleshed out in a highly readable and inspiring book by Van Jones, also titled Rebuild the Dream.

Rebuild the Dream

Jones, author of The Green Collar Economy and an environmental activist and former special advisor to the Obama administration on clean-energy jobs, examines the dynamics behind Barack Obama’s election and the forces that have since emerged to challenge him. He pays particular attention to the Tea Party, and seeks to learn what tactics can be adopted from its 2010 electoral success. He also examines the Occupy movement and suggests what it needs to do to accomplish its goals. Mainly, though, Jones issues a clarion call to join the Rebuild the Dream movement to revive the American economy and restore the country’s greatness.

Jones doesn’t pretend this will be easy, but he does bring great optimism to his focus on achieving change through consensus and bottom-up direction, and through community organizing, “crowd-sourcing,” online petitions, digital projects and conferences. He explains how movements fit into a “Heart Space/Head Space” grid, and how progressives need to appeal to the emotions as well as the intellect (a lesson learned from the Tea Party). Finally, he focuses on the Contract for the American Dream, and how it embodies the values that can make America work again.

If you long for progressive change but sometimes despair of achieving it, read this book. Its common sense and can-do attitude will give you a lift. Then, take action. Join the Rebuild the Dream movement. And if you’re in our neck of the woods, join BlueInGreene as well.

Yesterday’s Rural Broadband Symposium in Catskill was a sham. No direct questions were allowed after the morning’s panel presentations; questions had to be submitted in writing. And even then, tough questions went unasked. The president of Mid-Hudson Cable showed his respect for the broadband issue by skipping the symposium altogether and sending a self-serving video instead.

Kathleen Whitley-Harm and Rosemary O’Brien, who comprise Greene County Citizens for Better Broadband, did seem sincere and passionate in their advocacy of the issue. But they have spent years to achieve modest gains in one Greene County town, Greenville. And since individual towns have their own individual contracts with “providers” and these town contracts are typically for 10 years or longer, such a piecemeal approach could take many, many years to produce worthwhile results for the county as a whole.

Congressman Gibson announced that yet another symposium on the subject will be held soon. That would be the third. Gibson will point to these symposia in this election year, and say progress is being made on an important issue. In fact, the symposia seem to be a stalling tactic on the part of the Congressman and our local “providers”. Talking about an issue does not, in itself, resolve it. But it does allow you to claim you are “doing something”.

Mid-Hudson Cable President James Reynolds was quoted in the Catskill Daily Mail nearly a year ago (4/27/2011) as saying, “Virtually all the areas are going to be done without the use of government funds.” This was after Mid-Hudson Cable declined $3.5 million in stimulus money to expand broadband services in Greene and Columbia Counties. It would have been natural to ask him, at this symposium, where that broadband build-out process stands one year later. But he was not in attendance. And the question itself was not permitted. (I asked it in writing, but moderator Warren Hart chose not to present it.)

The lack of adequate broadband coverage in our area is indeed a critical issue. But much bolder action than this sham symposium will be required to address it.

This (April 2-8) is National Public Health Week, and to coincide with this focus on public health, the 2012 County Health Rankings have been released. For Greene County, the news is mixed.

The good news is, our county has moved up in the NY State County Health Rankings, from no. 60 (of 62 counties) in 2011 to no. 52 this year. The reason for the improvement is unclear; it may well be that other counties have simply had more slippage in health care outcomes over the past year than Greene has. Columbia County, our neighbor across the Hudson River, slipped from 43rd to 45th place, for example.

Regardless of the cause, it would be good to have more public discussion of Greene’s health outcomes. A ranking of 52 out of 62 remains a failing grade by anyone’s standard. The health of Greene’s citizens is something that every local politician, regardless of ideology, should start making a priority. It would be great if Greene continued to improve over the course of 2012, so when next year’s state rankings come out, we would no longer find ourselves in the bottom quadrant.

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