Thursday, December 31, 2009

Libertarians release top 10 disasters of 2009 Obama administration

Top 10 disasters of the 2009 Obama administration (in no particular order):

1. Cash for Clunkers
2. War escalation in Afghanistan
3. Giant government health care expansion bill
4. Post office loses money hand over fist
5. Stimulus package
6. Expansion of "state secrets" doctrine
7. Big increase in unemployment
8. "Bailout" Geithner as Treasury Secretary
9. Skyrocketing federal spending
10. Huge federal deficits

Top 10 disasters of the 2001-2008 Bush administration:

1. Cash for Car Companies
2. War in Iraq
3. Giant Medicare expansion bill
4. Post office loses money hand over fist
5. Stimulus "rebate" checks
7. Big increase in unemployment
8. "Bailout" Paulson as Treasury Secretary
9. Skyrocketing federal spending
10. Huge federal deficits

Wes Benedict, Libertarian Party Executive Director, commented, "Republicans and Democrats keep expanding government and creating more and more problems. We're encouraging as many Libertarians as possible to run for Congress in 2010. In Texas, the state with the earliest filing deadline, Libertarians have already filed for 31 of 32 Congressional seats."

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Attorney General Corbett urges Congress to Strike Nebraska Provision from Health Care Legislation or Face Potential Legal Challenge

/PRNewswire/ -- Attorney General Tom Corbett has joined 11 of his fellow attorneys general urging the leaders of Congress to delete the Nebraska provision from the pending federal health care legislation. The provision grants Nebraska a permanent exemption from paying Medicaid expenses that all other states, including Pennsylvania, are required to pay.

Corbett and his colleagues sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging them to remove the Nebraska provision from the health-care overhaul bill or face legal action.

In the letter Corbett said, "The provision violates the most basic and universally held notions of fairness, and is inconsistent with protections against arbitrary legislation afforded by the Constitution."

Corbett, who last week began conducting a legal analysis of the constitutionality of the Nebraska amendment in the health care legislation, said he believes the provision is constitutionally flawed.

Corbett said that Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson secured this special provision for Nebraska in exchange for his support of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act.

"The result of the Nebraska provision could have dire financial consequences for Pennsylvania taxpayers, forcing them to help offset the cost of Nebraska's Medicaid recipients," Corbett said. "The issue of equity and tax fairness should not be ignored, whether it is at the local, state or federal level."

Corbett noted that Medicaid expenses for Pennsylvania already total approximately $15 billion per year.

Corbett said he will continue to work with his colleagues across the country to explore all legal options challenging this provision if it is signed into law.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Promise to Keep. Senate Vote is the First Step Toward the Promise of Quality, Affordable Health Care for All

/PRNewswire/ -- Today's passage of health care reform in the U.S. Senate is one historic step toward fulfilling what will one day be a promise we will make to every person living in this country: If you are sick, we will care for you. You will be able to afford coverage and insurance companies will not run roughshod over you.

USAction Executive Director Jeff Blum said other steps will include final passage after conference committee, effective implementation in the years to come and beginning work on new federal and state policies to make further progress toward affordable and accessible health care coverage for everyone.

"Right now we are focusing on improving the bill in conference committee by making good health care affordable and by holding insurance companies accountable," Blum said. "But make no mistake: This is, by far, the farthest we have ever come as a nation toward providing quality, affordable health care for all."

As House and Senate negotiators prepare to meet, Blum said USAction is calling on legislators to make the following improvements in the final legislation:

Make good health care more affordable:
-- Require employers to contribute to the cost of employee coverage.
-- Pay for health care reform through progressive financing - i.e., a tax
on the very wealthiest Americans and not by imposing a tax on costlier
health plans with many older and female workers, and full family
-- Make coverage more affordable in the insurance exchange to ensure that
low- and moderate-income families can afford health insurance

Hold insurance companies accountable:
-- Create a publicly-accountable health insurance option on day one
across the United States.
-- Establish strong insurance regulations in all markets and effective
implementation of coverage through federally operated exchanges.

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FRC Statement on the Christmas Eve Passage of the Health Care 'Reform' Bill

/PRNewswire/ -- This morning the United States Senate voted 60-39 in favor of final passage of HR 3590, the so-called "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made the following comments:

"Today's Christmas Eve vote may signal the end of the debate in the Senate, but it's far from the end of the debate at large. Since Senator Reid's bad bill is substantially different from the House's bad bill, the lower chamber will have to vote on the plan again. The Senate bill's massive funding for elective abortions and the construction of abortion facilities are among the most radical differences. On Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted in an interview that the Senate health care bill will force 'everybody' in the exchange to pay an abortion premium. The so-called Nelson 'compromise' ensures that everyone will pay for abortion--no matter how the funds are divided up.

"According to a new Quinnipiac poll, Americans -- by a huge three to one margin -- are overwhelmingly opposed to using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. Seventy-two percent of the country is now firmly on the side of Congressman Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) solution to ban the government's financial involvement in the deadly procedure. House and Senate conferees would do well to heed that warning when they come together to iron out their differences with the final bill, else this bill could collapse because of it.

"Disagreement over abortion funding is one of the many reasons this fight is far from over. Both House and Senate versions of the bill are seriously flawed. Both bills still allow rationing of health care for seniors, raise health costs for families, mandate that families purchase under threat of fines and penalties, offer counsel about assisted suicide in some states, do not offer broad conscience protections for health care workers and seek to insert the federal government into all aspects of citizen's lives. Additionally, the bills would place a crushing debt on both current and future generations."

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AHIP Statement on Passage of Senate Health Care Reform Legislation

/PRNewswire/ -- Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), released the following statement today on passage of Senate health care reform legislation:

"Providing all Americans with health care coverage is crucial for the country. Health plans support legislative changes that would provide guaranteed access to all Americans, with no pre-existing condition limitations and no health-status-based premiums. These reforms are essential to giving all Americans greater peace of mind and health security.

"At the same time, specific provisions in this legislation will increase, rather than decrease, health care costs; reduce coverage options; and disrupt existing coverage for families, seniors and small businesses - particularly between now and when the legislation is fully implemented in 2014.

"These issues can and should be addressed if health care reform is going to fulfill the promise of providing all Americans with guaranteed access to affordable, portable health care coverage."

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

National Patient Advocate Foundation Encouraged by New Senate Health Care Reform Bill Provisions, Urges Additional Patient Protection Measures

National Patient Advocate Foundation Encouraged by New Senate Health Care Reform Bill Provisions, Urges Additional Patient Protection Measures in Final Legislation

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF) - a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the mission of creating avenues of improved patient access to health care through public policy reform at the state and federal levels - today praised Senate leadership for their tireless work on historic health care reform, and encouraged lawmakers to continue their steadfast work on this important issue in the weeks to come.

"We are grateful for the impressive progress made in both chambers of Congress in advancing health care reform, and by our Senators' current dedication to working nearly around the clock in order to complete the votes required to pass reform legislation," said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, Founder and CEO of NPAF. "We urge all Senators to continue this positive momentum and vote in support of the health care bill on Christmas Eve, bringing us one step closer to enacting meaningful and comprehensive reform for all Americans."

NPAF is especially pleased with many provisions in the Senate bill manager's amendment that would greatly benefit patients with chronic, life-threatening and disabling conditions. These include the elimination of preexisting condition coverage exclusions for children under age 19; the prohibition of annual dollar limits on coverage; and the requirement of coverage for routine costs associated with clinical trials, championed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

As the House and Senate look ahead to conferencing reform legislation, NPAF urges lawmakers to incorporate additional patient protection measures as they work together to finalize health care reform legislation to be sent to the President. Specifically, the following improvements are needed in order to effectively improve chronically and severely ill Americans' access to quality health care:

-- Apply insurance reforms, including the elimination of preexisting
condition exclusions, to all markets including large group and
-- Provide a transitional reduction in the preexisting condition
look-back and waiting periods (as in the House bill);
-- Eliminate lifetime and annual coverage limits, on both dollar value
and service/disease specific; and
-- Provide at least $2 billion a year to fund the high-risk pool for
high-risk patients, and limit age rating in the risk pool at 2 to 1.

"As we approach the holidays, we at NPAF and the millions of patients we serve in conjunction with our companion organization, the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF), are thankful for our lawmakers' work to improve the quality of our health care system and their foresight in including policy provisions that will have a measurable impact on patients' access to necessary care," added Davenport-Ennis. "Our work must not stop here, and we will continue to look to our lawmakers throughout the holiday season and beyond to help us make certain that our nation succeeds in providing affordable, high-quality and effective health care for all."

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Americans United for Life Offers Urgent Legal Briefing for Senator Nelson

/PRNewswire/ -- At 4:45 pm today on the floor of the United States Senate, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska made the following statement:

"...even though they [pro-life advocates] cannot constructively point out how it doesn't prohibit the use of federal funds or wall off those funds or keep them totally segregated. They just didn't like the language..."

As a result of this statement, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President of Americans United for Life, directed her legal team to contact the Senator's office and offer to provide an urgent briefing to clarify the facts about abortion provisions in the bill. In addition, she has issued this statement:

"Senator Nelson has a strong, consistent pro-life voting record, and his vote for the manager's amendment was a surprise to all of us. We have contacted his office and have offered to send our top legal team to fully brief him as soon as he has an opportunity. I believe it is absolutely critical that Senator Nelson has all of the facts before he casts his final vote on Christmas Eve. The facts demonstrate that this bill will create the largest single expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade and impose a first-ever abortion tax on the American people."

FOR THE FACTS, CLICK BELOW tor-reid%E2%80%99s-amendment/ -amendment/

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Americans United for Life Action: 'Senate Health Care Bill Absolutely Fails To Meet Abortion and Life Protections.'

/PRNewswire/ -- Official statement of Americans United for Life Action President and CEO Charmaine Yoest:

"Majority Leader Reid's amendment to the Senate health care bill absolutely fails to meet abortion and life protections that exist in current federal law and policy. It does not prevent federal funding of plans that include abortion coverage, it does not adequately protect health care providers who choose to exercise their rights of conscience, and it does not prevent government involvement in assisted suicide. A vast majority of the American people are opposed to these policies and will make themselves heard loudly over the coming days."

- Charmaine Yoest, President and CEO of Americans United for Life Action

Americans United for Life's Legal Analysis of Life Concerns in Manager's Amendment:

From a preliminary analysis of Majority Leader Reid's manager's amendment, it is clear that it is unacceptable and would be a radical departure from existing law and policy.

First, the amendment provides inadequate conscience protection, because it does not prohibit any government entity or program (federal, state, or local) from discriminating against health care providers that do not want to participate in abortions.

Second, the amendment fails to address our concerns that under the Mikulski amendment (already accepted in the underlying bill), the Health Resources and services Administration (HRSA) has the power to require private insurance plans to include abortion coverage under the guise of "preventive care."

Third, the amendment allows insurance plans that cover abortions to receive government subsidies, which is a radical departure from existing law (which is not allowed under the Hyde Amendment and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program).

Fourth, while the amendment allows states to "opt out" of allowing private plans that include abortion coverage to participate in their exchanges, this "opt out" provision makes abortion coverage normative. In other words, states will have to act to prevent subsidies from going to plans that cover abortions in their state, turning on its head the traditional federal approach to abortion.

Fifth, the amendment fails to ensure federal funds will not go to assisted suicide and fails to address concerns that Comparative Effectiveness Research will lead to rationing of essential medical care.

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FRC Rejects Phony Abortion 'Compromise'

/PRNewswire/ -- Today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) released his long awaited "manager's amendment" with new language dealing with the abortion issue. The new language is being trumpeted as including an opt-out provision that actually makes the opt-out provision in the original bill worse by requiring the state to either cover all abortions or opt out of all abortions. This will make it difficult for states that currently include exceptions for life, rape, and incest. This so-called "compromise" language makes it more likely that these states will cover all abortions. Moreover, there is no individual opt-out ensuring that everyone in the plans would pay for other people's abortions. In contrast to the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment, this new language undermines the principles of the Hyde Amendment.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins had this to say about the legislation:

"The Senate health care bill will set up the federal government as being brokers for the abortion industry. No Senator or organization can call themselves pro-life if they support such language.

"This so-called 'compromise' includes the accounting gimmicks that we have seen previously proposed. The new language also does nothing to protect individual consciences. Every purchaser of insurance will be forced to pay for other people's abortions in a more direct manner than ever before.

"The replacement of the public option resembles the current health plan for federal employees, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP), with one notable exception, the FEHBP excludes plans that cover abortions while Senator Reid's bill would mandate abortion coverage.

"There are many reasons to reject the overall bill, including the cost to future generations while doing nothing to actually reform our health care system. This bill would now require government funds to pay for plans that cover elective abortion which is a direct violation of the principles set forth over thirty years ago with the Hyde Amendment. It's now very clear that this abortion funding bill should be thrown into the trash heap of bad ideas and misplaced priorities.

"I ask Senators Ben Nelson (D-Nebr.) and Robert Casey (D-Penn.) to remember the promises they made to protect the most innocent among us and reject Senator Reid's bill by voting against any procedural motions on the legislation."

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Friday, December 18, 2009

'Abortion Compromise' Does Not Address Core Problem In Senate Health Bill, Says Cardinal DiNardo, Bishops' Pro-Life Chair

/PRNewswire/ -- Responding to reports of a new "compromise" proposal on abortion in the U.S. Senate's health care reform bill, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo today reaffirmed the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that the legislation will be morally unacceptable "unless and until" it complies with longstanding current laws on abortion funding such as the Hyde amendment. Cardinal DiNardo is Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and Chairman of the Conference's Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The Cardinal commented on efforts by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to improve the Senate bill's treatment of abortion.

"Senator Casey's good-faith effort to allow individuals to 'opt out' of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy. Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm. In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage is the norm. And numerous opinion polls show that the great majority of Americans do not want abortion coverage."

"I welcome Senator Casey's good-faith effort to improve this bill," said Cardinal DiNardo. "In particular he has sought to improve protection for conscience rights, and to include programs of support for pregnant women and adoptive parents that we favor in their own right. However, these improvements do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill: Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it does not comply with longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them."

Cardinal DiNardo had written to the Senate on December 14, saying that "the Catholic bishops of the United States strongly support authentic reform of our ailing health care system." His letter cited "three moral criteria for reform: respect for life and conscience; affordability for the poor; and access to much-needed basic health care for immigrants," noting that so far the Senate bill "has fallen short of the example set by the House version of this legislation in each of these areas."

On abortion funding, the Cardinal urged the Senate to "incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law, acknowledged and reaffirmed by the Senate itself" when it approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act for the new fiscal year on December 13. This Act reaffirmed the Hyde amendment and other laws that exclude elective abortions from health plans receiving federal funds -- including the plans that cover the Senators themselves and all other federal employees. The Senate so far has failed to reflect this same policy in its health care bill as the House has done, he said [see].

Cardinal DiNardo said December 18: "We continue to oppose and urge others to oppose the Senate bill unless and until this fundamental failure is remedied. And whatever the immediate outcome in the Senate, we will continue to work for health care reform which truly protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all. As the bishops have said many times, 'providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority.' In particular we will work vigorously to ensure that the substance of the House's provision on abortion funding is included in final legislation. A special debt of gratitude is owed to House and Senate members, especially Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who have placed their votes and reputation on the line to stand up for unborn children. Making this legislation consistent with longstanding federal law on abortion will not threaten needed authentic reform, but will help ensure its passage."

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U.S. House of Representatives Passage of C.A.L.M. Act Highlights Need for TV Volume Leveling

/PRNewswire/ -- SRS Labs (NASDAQ: SRSL) , the industry leader in surround sound, audio, and voice technologies, today announced their strong support for the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (C.A.L.M.) Act, which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 16th. In conjunction with this measure, SRS TruVolume(TM), which is already being deployed in HDTVs, Sound Bars and Set-Top Boxes around the world, will effectively eliminate volume fluctuations forever.

The C.A.L.M. Act (H.R. 1084) confirms the need for a solution to volume fluctuation, which has afflicted TV-viewing for more than 5 decades. The act, which was introduced last year by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), aims to establish universal volume level standards for U.S. broadcast and cable companies that are enforceable by the FCC, resulting in a more consistent audio experience on a single channel or network.

If the bill passes and is signed by the president, it will be sometime before it is in force. Meanwhile, SRS TruVolume is immediately available for consumers via Sound Bars and HDTVs from popular brands such as VIZIO and Samsung, and within the recently announced stand-alone MyVolume(TM) Adapter. Additionally, a major MSO (Multiple System Operator) is set to announce this feature within its set-top boxes across North America, benefiting their subscribers and getting a head start on compliance with the C.A.L.M. Act at the same time.

SRS, which leads the industry in the development and implementation of key audio technologies for the TV market, recognized the need to develop an advanced audio leveling solution that would effectively protect consumers from the volume spikes that TV viewers have endured for decades.

SRS TruVolume is a comprehensive solution, that goes beyond addressing television programming on a single station or network, the focus of the C.A.L.M. Act, by effectively eliminating the volume fluctuations that occur during any possible viewing scenario, such as: channel-surfing, commercial breaks, Internet streaming, digital downloads, CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray content.

"Countless people across the globe enjoy quality television entertainment at the end of a long day, only to be blown out of their seats by dramatically inconsistent TV program and commercial volume levels," said Alan Kraemer, Chief Technology Officer for SRS Labs. "It's a problem that has stood firm for more than 50 years, and we applaud the efforts of the U.S. Congress to address the issue at the broadcast-end. Our revolutionary TruVolume solution will further complement the effort by completely taking care of the problem now at the point of delivery to the consumer."

While previous solutions existed that were designed to minimize volume fluctuations, they often exacerbated the problem or did very little to resolve it. SRS TruVolume is the most advanced audio leveling technology ever created, and is the first solution to accurately maintain the target volume level based on the human perception of loudness, without introducing any adverse side effects.

To discuss the merits of the H.R. 1084, an envoy from SRS Labs recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Congresswoman Eshoo's staff and reached agreement that the C.A.L.M Act and TruVolume have the capacity to work in tandem to eliminate volume fluctuation once and for all.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oxfam's Reaction to Secretary Clinton's Copenhagen Announcement

/PRNewswire-/ -- Oxfam America President Raymond C. Offenheiser made the following statement in reaction to today's announcement by Secretary Hillary Clinton that the US is prepared to work with other developed countries to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries:

"Secretary Clinton's announcement could be one of the missing keys that unlock the international negotiations in Copenhagen. Her recognition that substantial resources are needed to help developing countries weather the negative impacts of climate change could truly move us closer to a fair and adequate global deal on climate change.

"Around the world, millions of people are facing the fact that the impacts of climate change are here to stay and due to get worse before they get better, no matter how quickly we cut emissions. From Benin to Bangladesh, the poorest people are hit first and worst by climate change, but are least responsible for causing it.

"This welcome development was bolstered by Speaker Nancy Pelosi's impressive bipartisan congressional delegation to Copenhagen, which demonstrated that the Administration's proposals have strong support in the US Congress.

"To ensure a strong path forward, we hope President Obama will build on Secretary Clinton's announcement and the demonstrated Congressional support and firm up the US commitment to meet this goal with public funding that is new and additional to current development assistance. Hard-hit communities around the world must not face a trade-off between health clinics and early warning systems for disasters."

Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Physician Groups Oppose Current Senate Health Care Reform Bill

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, a group of national medical societies launched a multi-state advertising campaign in opposition to H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, currently under consideration by the U.S. Senate and making its way towards a final vote in the coming days. The groups are targeting key states, urging Senators to vote against a health care bill that is "bad medicine" for patients.

"Physicians know first hand that our health care system needs reform - but the current Senate health care bill is 'bad medicine' for patients," said Troy M. Tippett, M.D., President of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. "The Senate bill inappropriately expands the role of the federal government in health care decision making, and undermines the doctor-patient relationship that is critical to a health care delivery system that works for patients."

"While we are united in our desire to improve health care and extend coverage, the current Senate bill is not the cure to what ails our health care system. It jeopardizes patient access to the physician of their choice," said Joseph D. Zuckerman, M.D., President of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "We urge the Senate to take a step back, and make essential changes to this bill before a rush to reform leads to a bad outcome for patients across the country."

Physician organizations supporting this initiative include: the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Osteopathic Academy of Orthopedics, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, American Society of Breast Surgeons, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Arthroscopy Association of North America, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, National Association of Spine Specialists, Orthopaedic Trauma Association, Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America.

Dozens of other medical groups, representing hundreds of thousands of physicians, are also on record opposing the current Senate health care reform bill.

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AARP Disappointed by Senate Vote Against Lower Prescription Drug Prices

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Senate today rejected an amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that would help make prescription drugs more affordable by allowing for the safe and legal importation of lower priced drugs from abroad. The bipartisan amendment, endorsed by AARP and sponsored by Senators Dorgan, Snowe, McCain, Grassley and Stabenow, would have improved competition and helped to bring down the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs.

The Senate also rejected a second prescription drug importation amendment sponsored by Sen. Lautenberg, which would have created an unnecessary roadblock for prescription drug importation. In a move designed to block importation, the amendment prohibited importation of prescription drugs unless the Secretary of Health and Human Services can certify that it is safe to do so. Despite the fact that safety provisions are already built into the AARP-endorsed Dorgan-Snowe amendment, this version is designed to create administrative hurdles to effectively prevent importation.

** How a legislator votes on issues is only one factor in evaluating his or her legislative performance, which should also include such things as constituency services and committee work

"While we applaud Senator Specter's support for the Dorgan-Snowe importation amendment, we are disappointed that he also effectively voted to block this provision from ever taking effect," said Dick Chevrefils, AARP Pennsylvania State Director. "The Lautenberg amendment is an unnecessary roadblock that would prevent importation and maintain the status quo of skyrocketing drug prices."

"AARP is also deeply disappointed that Senator Casey voted today for continuing the status quo and against lower prescription drug prices for his constituents," said Chevrefils. "With brand name drug prices rising at alarming rates, we hope he will further review the negative impact on the people of Pennsylvania and reconsider his position."

Making prescription drugs more affordable has long been one of AARP's top priorities. The Dorgan-Snowe-McCain-Grassley-Stabenow importation amendment would have been a first step toward lowering the cost of medications in this country. AARP will continue to fight for this amendment and against the unnecessary roadblocks that could prevent its implementation.

AARP notified the 111th Congress that it was tracking roll call votes on key legislation important to its nearly 40 million members and reporting the outcomes of these votes back to its members and all older Americans. "When Americans understand the issues and where their lawmakers stand, they can make smart decisions," said Chevrefils. "AARP will be there to give our members, as well as all Americans, the most accurate information we can."

AARP members and all older Americans can see how their representatives voted on health care reform by going to AARP's Government Watch is a one-stop online portal that will be tracking and publicizing every designated key vote on issues facing Americans age 50-plus. A "Key Vote Summary" highlighting votes on these issues will be published at the end of each congressional session.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

United Nations Kicks NGOs Out of COP-15 Climate Conference

/PRNewswire/ -- The United Nations announced today it is permanently banning thousands of accredited non-governmental organizations from the COP-15 climate conference in Copenhagen.

The restriction was announced today outside the Copenhagen conference center after several thousand accredited NGO conference delegates, including three from the National Center for Public Policy Research, waited outside for eight hours or longer in 32-degree F temperatures for admission.

NGOs apparently are being banned because the United Nations accredited 45,000 people for a building with a capacity of 15,000, although the stated reason was "security concerns." The "security concerns" may be related to the fact that, after waiting several hours in the cold, delegations began to chant, "Let us in! Let us in!"

"To be an 'accredited' or 'admitted' NGO to a COP conference, NGOs must apply months in advance, and typically only make travel plans to attend after receiving complete credentials from the United Nations," said Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, an accredited COP-15 NGO organization that is as of now banned from the conference. "To give credentials to 45,000 people while choosing a building that holds 15,000 people is insane, although the United Nations, to be fair, has never been known for competence."

"What makes this an even greater travesty," said Ridenour, "is the COP-15 conference ostensibly is trying to find ways to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. If 30,000 people fly to Copenhagen for no reason, doesn't that put unnecessary greenhouse gases into the atmosphere?"

Ridenour has formally asked the U.N., which is permitting some NGOs to have many delegates inside while others are permitted none, to limit each NGO to one representative as long as space limitations remain a concern.

"Some of these NGO delegations are from rich countries like our own," said Ridenour, "but for some NGOs, raising the funds to attend a conference in Copenhagen is a real financial hardship. The least the U.N. can do is let in at least one member of these delegations, so all of their money won't be wasted."

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Amnesty International, Responding to Secretary Clinton's Human Rights Address, Urges Accountability at Home

/PRNewswire/ -- Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox issued the following statement in response to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's address today at Georgetown University outlining the Obama administration's human rights agenda for the 21st century:

"Secretary Clinton rightly identifies accountability as the centerpiece of any successful human rights agenda for the United States. But if the administration means what it says, then it needs to follow through and back up rhetoric with actions. Discussion of human rights can't be an empty rebranding exercise.

"The President should appoint a bipartisan commission to investigate the abuses connected to counterterrorism policies since September 11, 2001. The administration must adhere to executive orders already in effect and close the prison at Guantanamo and abide by international legal commitments to end torture.

"The administration can't insist that other countries adhere to human rights protections while continuing to detain people outside the rule of law at home. The administration should bring charges against Guantanamo detainees who can legitimately be charged with a crime, and release the rest without further delay. To date, more than 100 individuals have already been cleared for release but remain unjustly detained in Guantanamo.

"In his Nobel Prize speech in Oslo, President Obama stated that 'no nation can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we are not willing to follow those rules ourselves.'

"Amnesty International commends the administration for signaling that it intends to engage closely on human rights. This is welcome progress.

"It should carry this message forward through measurable progress at home. Taking these steps would further enhance national security. This means prioritizing accountability for torture, fully implementing already ratified human rights treaties, and signaling strong support for those human rights treaties not yet ratified, reconstituting an Interagency Working Group on Human Rights, creating an independent, nonpartisan National Human Rights Commission, and issuing a comprehensive Executive Order on Human Rights."

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

NADA Commends the U.S. Senate for Passing Dealers Rights Amendment in Spending Bill

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) issued the following statement today after the U.S. Senate voted to pass the spending bill, which includes the NADA-backed dealer rights provision:

"NADA commends the Senate and House leaders who fought to keep the dealer rights amendment in the spending bill. We look forward to the President signing this into law soon.

"The dealer rights provision will provide affected General Motors and Chrysler dealers and their respective automakers with a fair arbitration process to resolve ongoing concerns about recent dealership closures. As with any compromise, this is not a perfect solution. However, this is far better than any of the other previous proposals. It's appropriate that Congress addressed the legislation this week that focuses on small business, Main Street and jobs.

"Congressional passage of the dealer rights amendment is the culmination of months of work by NADA and other dealer groups to obtain a fair and meaningful arbitration process for affected dealerships.

"Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the lead sponsor of the legislation in the Senate; Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.V., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee; and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, deserve a lot of credit for their efforts to gain a fair resolution for dealers.

"Numerous meetings were also held with the House Democratic leadership and amendment sponsors Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Dan Maffei, D-N.Y.; and Frank Kratovil, D-Md, as well as House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., and other committee members who strongly backed the proposal of Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio. Rep. LaTourette and the House Democratic leadership deserve tremendous credit for their persistent efforts to find a fair resolution for affected dealers.

"During a year with so many other pressing national issues, these House and Senate leaders devoted a significant amount of their time to address the dealer closure issue. And we very much appreciate their efforts."

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Biting the Hand That Heals

/24-7/ The nation's health care system is a popular topic of discussion, and the hot-button issue within is the idea that an abundance of medical lawsuits are responsible for the increase in health care costs.

It's a dilemma - while preventable medical errors are a leading cause of injury and death, and many wronged patients never gain reparations - too many devoted physicians live and work in fear of the consequences they may face due to false claims made against them.

Enter Tort Reform

Tort reform would make it more difficult to sue doctors and obtain large judgments, usually by putting a cap on the amount a plaintiff can receive in punitive damages, and would limit the liability damages of physicians and insurance companies. Missouri capped non-economic damages at $350,000 in 2005, which some doctors claim has prompted a welcome reduction in their insurance rates.

Defensive Medicine

Some argue that such reform would reduce the threat of liability that can drive doctors to prescribe costly tests and procedures, protecting them from lawsuits, even though the tests and procedures are often medically unnecessary. Studies show that this "defensive medicine" accounts for about 3 percent, or about $60 billion a year, of overall medical spending. Reliable studies also place the cost of malpractice litigation at just 2 percent of overall health care costs. But any discussion regarding reform should focus on reducing malpractice, not just reducing malpractice claims.

The Institute for Medicine estimates that more than 98,000 people die each year in the U.S. because of preventable medical errors. The reluctance of many hospitals and state governments to properly address and report these occurrences often results in patients seeking justice the only way possible-by going to court.

Moving Forward

The Obama administration has said it will provide grants of up to $3 million to states and health systems that investigate new ways of handling medical liability claims. "Tort reform's impact is significant-meaning we can measure it-but significant and small," says Leemore Dafny, who has been among the economic experts sharing recommendations with senior members of the Obama administration. She adds: "We've done some tests and it turns out that it's not going to be a huge fix."

Any attempt to make adjustments to the health care system structure would ideally strike a balance - as a patient's right to seek justice in court is diminished, the measures to prevent medical errors from occurring should be strengthened. Providers need incentives to offer cost-effective care, while patients need to trust that the judicial system will properly deal with providers who are negligent. While tort reform may not be the ultimate "silver bullet" solution, it opens up a discussion that requires the action to dig deeper and investigate further.

Article provided by Warner Law Offices PA

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Medicare Report Confirms Health Care Takeover Plan is a Fiscal Disaster

/PRNewswire/ -- A new report released by the Medicare Chief Actuary, Richard Foster, and the Center for Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees Medicaid, says that the proposed health care overhaul plan will dramatically increase health care costs and senior citizens will suffer from Medicare cuts.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made the following comments:

"The Medicare number crunchers are admitting what we've known all along - that this $2.5 trillion bill is a fiscal disaster that will dramatically raise costs and likely cut health care access for senior citizens.

"A spending spree of this magnitude will have consequences because our country doesn't have an unlimited supply of money. This sobering report alone should be enough to convince every Senator and Congressman to oppose this bill. In addition, this health care takeover will increase taxes by almost $500 billion, and further hurt job growth by imposing $28 billion in new taxes on employers.

"The Senate plan also takes a slap at married couples by imposing a marriage penalty on couples making more than $250,000 a year. Cohabiting couples, on the other hand, are free to make $200,000 each before getting slammed by the same tax. The marriage penalty strikes at the core strength of our country - the married family unit which is the greatest generator of human goods and social benefits to our nation."

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Controversy Over Reid Fundraiser Exemplifies Need for Fair Elections

/PRNewswire/ -- The controversy over Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) request to delay weekend votes on the omnibus spending bill purportedly to attend a fundraiser in New Orleans exemplifies our broken campaign finance system, two national campaign finance watchdogs said today. The groups criticized the money-driven political system which forces elected leaders to spend too much time fundraising when they should be addressing the critical issues that face our country.

"As Congress works to fix our ailing health care system, Sen. Reid appeared ready to delay Senate proceedings to jet off for a $1,000 a plate fundraiser," said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign. "Our leaders should be solely focused on what's best for the nation without having to worry where their next campaign check is going to come from. Campaign cash and fundraising events prevent Congress from fully tending to the people's business, and that has to end."

"That the leader of the US Senate would even consider delaying Senate proceedings and negotiations on an issue as important as health care reform, reportedly to attend a fundraiser, speaks volumes of the constant pressure that members of Congress are under to raise money for themselves, their colleagues and their political party," said Bob Edgar, president and CEO Common Cause. "We need a Congress that is immune to the pressures of fundraising and that serves the public interest. It's time to pass the Fair Elections Now Act."

On Thursday, Sen. Reid requested that debate on the omnibus spending bill be delayed, pushing back negotiations on health care legislation even further. He had previously told his colleagues to be prepared to debate health care legislation every weekend until Christmas. Republicans quickly jumped on the request, noting Reid's weekend fundraiser in New Orleans. Reid admonished his colleagues, saying he would never reprimand his colleagues for attending a fundraiser, as reported in The Hill this morning.

The Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752, H.R. 1826), sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) would create a voluntary system that combines small dollar donors with limited public financing. Under the proposal, candidates would be free from the campaign money chase, able to focus on our nation's challenges instead of dialing for dollars. The House legislation currently has bipartisan, cross-caucus support of 120 representatives. Learn more at

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard.

Public Campaign is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to sweeping campaign reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Media Analyst: White House Cover-Up of Salahi Gate-Crashing Demands an Investigative Press

/PRNewswire/ -- Accuracy in Media analyst Roger Aronoff, in a special report on the White House "GateCrashers" scandal, faulted the Obama administration for refusing to allow White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and other staffers to testify before the Homeland Security Committee. He called on the national media to further investigate what White House officials might be trying to hide.

"One thing is certain: As Obama works feverishly to pass health care legislation, the White House doesn't want a growing scandal involving the President's staff to occupy the attention of the media and Congress. The Democrats who control Congress can be expected to fall into line. These are times that demand an investigative press unwilling to play lap dog to the White House," Aronoff wrote.

Aronoff gave credit to some members of the national press, who have generally been supportive of President Obama, for speaking out on the White House's lack of transparency. They include CNN's Anderson Cooper, David Gergen and Ed Henry, and The Chicago Tribune editorial board.

On the other hand, he pointed out that NBC's Matt Lauer failed to disclose a conflict of interest when he interviewed Tareq and Michaele Salahi on The Today Show. Though the Salahis stated on the air that they were not paid in any way for the NBC interview, in fact they were under contract with Bravo, a subsidiary of NBC Universal, which prevented them from appearing on other shows.

Though Aronoff expected most Democrats in Congress to fall in line with the administration, he did recognize Reps. Chris Carney (D-PA) and Al Green (D-TX) for asking tough questions and calling for transparency from the White House.

The report is available here: What is White House Covering Up in "GateCrashers" Scandal?

Accuracy in Media is a citizens' media watchdog organization whose mission is to promote fairness, balance, and accuracy in news reporting. Founded in 1969, AIM is the oldest non-profit press watchdog group in America. For more information, please visit

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National Oncologist Group Warns: Current Health Care Reform Legislation Woefully Short in Addressing Cancer Care Crisis

/PRNewswire/ -- The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) today issued a statement warning that oncologists throughout the U.S. may face closing their practices if critical Medicare reimbursement fixes for treating cancer patients are not made as a part of health care reform.

"Current health reform legislation before Congress does not address major inadequacies in Medicare reimbursement and substantial cuts coming in January to cancer care," said Patrick Cobb, M.D., president of COA and managing partner of Hematology-Oncology Centers of the Northern Rockies in Billings, Montana. "These problems are impacting oncologists now. Many have had to let staff go, and some have already closed practices in communities across the U.S."

"Released this week, the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer highlighted the progress made in treating cancer over the past 30 years. This country's cancer care system deserves much of the credit for helping cancer patients receive high quality treatment near home, in their own communities," continued Dr. Cobb. "But this system is under threat if President Obama and Congress do not act before January. These January cuts threaten the viability of the nation's community cancer care delivery system, where 84% of Americans with cancer are treated, and jeopardize patients' access to care."

In separate letters to President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, COA president Dr. Cobb submitted a statement approved by the COA Board of Directors, including a six-part recommendation on solving the cancer care crisis. COA noted that the recent financial crisis has exposed the fragility of the health care payment system, with more Americans unable to afford cancer care and falling between the treatment cracks.

In a national call to action, the organization is encouraging oncology professionals and the entire cancer community to contact Members of Congress to request action on these recommendations, starting with the prevention of planned severe Medicare cuts to cancer care. These cuts start in January and continue to increase over the next four years.

"As a nation, we have watched the health care reform legislation evolve over the past year. One issue we have not heard much about -- and not through lack of trying -- is legislation for the reform of cancer care," continued Dr. Cobb. "Although there are certain positive aspects of reform relating to insurance coverage, the proposed legislation comes up woefully short in addressing a growing cancer care crisis."

Prior to Congress embarking on health reform legislation, a national team of oncologists spent more than a year researching and developing a plan to improve the Medicare payment system for cancer care. This initiative resulted in collaborating with members of Congress, now embodied in the National Cancer Care Demonstration Project Act of 2009 (H.R. 3675).

Dr. Cobb noted, "Because of the timing of the health care reform debate, we're concerned that progress in funding and implementing this very specific national project is too slow to stop the impact of the upcoming January cuts."

The organization has issued a six-part recommendation, which includes immediate action:

1. Enact real-world solutions to enhancing quality cancer care while
controlling costs by including the National Cancer Care Demonstration
Project Act of 2009 (H.R. 3675) in health care reform legislation.
2. Stop implementation of Medicare reimbursement cuts to cancer care,
especially the payment reduction to cancer drug administration.
3. Stop the 2010 21.2% Medicare reimbursement payment cut affecting all
physician-related services and fix the broken Medicare payment system
based on the SGR formula.
4. Stop cutting cancer care reimbursement further by using cuts to pay for
primary care bonuses.
5. Fix the problem of artificially low Medicare drug reimbursement by
including the "prompt pay" solution in health care reform legislation.
6. Eliminate the 20% Medicare patient co-payment requirement for cancer

A full statement is listed the organization's web site (

"The War on Cancer, declared almost 40 years ago, has resulted in increased survival for Americans with cancer and has transformed many cancers from a death sentence to a chronic disease," continued Dr. Cobb. "However, the cost of cancer is still in excess of $220 billion annually and it claims the life of one American every minute. Congress must act now as health care reform legislation is being debated because the risk of getting this wrong is too great, both as measured in medical costs and the lives of Americans."

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NCPA Backs New Amendments to Senate Health Reform Bill; Expresses Concern over Revised Public Option’s Pharmacy Benefit

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) today endorsed three amendments recently proposed to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and raised questions about an emerging public insurance option that would be administered by the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM). NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, issued the following statement:

“NCPA strongly supports an amendment by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that allows pharmacies to continue providing Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) and Part B drugs to Medicare beneficiaries without purchasing a surety bond. Like the 14 other types of medical professionals that Medicare exempted from the surety bond requirement, pharmacists are licensed and regulated by the states. Requiring surety bonds is duplicative and may lead to loss of patient access to valuable health care services, such as diabetes testing supplies, canes and crutches.

“We continue to work with Congress on both a permanent pharmacy exemption from DMEPOS accreditation requirements, as well as an extension of the current moratorium, which is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2009.

“Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) added important language to the Senate ‘Freshmen Value and Innovation Package’ amendment to codify Medicare’s medication therapy management (MTM) program. MTM utilizes community pharmacists to help patients adhere to, and maximize the benefits of, their medicine. The programs have been shown to improve outcomes while lowering health care costs.

“An amendment by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct the first detailed study in more than 10 years of pharmacists’ cost of dispensing in the Medicaid program. Private studies have shown community pharmacists to be compensated well below their cost of dispensing and a GAO study could give Congress and the states needed information for measuring the adequacy of the dispensing fees they pay and the impact upon patient access to pharmacy services.

“Various news reports indicate Senators are considering an OPM-administered health plan for the uninsured. Under such a model, we urge lawmakers to utilize a pharmacy benefit administrator (PBA) to manage drug coverage, rather than a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM).

“PBMs have a history of inflating health care costs through bloated administrative fees and questionable practices that are hidden from patients and plan sponsors. OPM’s inspector general told a House subcommittee investigating the PBMs’ effect on the federal employee health plan that ‘there’s a good chance we’re not getting a good deal because of the lack of transparency.’

“A PBA, such as those employed by Medicaid and the Pentagon, would give patients and taxpayers the best bang for their buck by passing through all rebates, discounts, and price concessions. PBM transparency requirements in the current bill should continue to apply to any plan that operates within the exchange, including the public option.

“NCPA is grateful for Congress’ bipartisan support of community pharmacy in health care reform and we will continue to work with lawmakers as the legislative process continues.”

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Perkins: Senate Would Rather Mandate Abortion Funding Than Enact 'Health Care Reform'

/PRNewswire/ -- This evening, the Nelson-Hatch abortion anti-funding amendment to the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" was "tabled" by a vote of 54-45, thus killing any hope to make the health care bill abortion neutral. The Nelson-Hatch amendment would have prevented government funding for elective abortion in the public option or subsidies for health plans in the government run exchange that cover elective abortion. Of all the concerns in the legislation, abortion is the one issue that the Democrats are afraid to have a straight up-or-down vote on.

Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins responded with the following comments:

"In rejecting the Nelson-Hatch amendment, pro-abortion senators have broken the three decade-long truce over government funding of abortion and have demonstrated they would rather mandate federal funding for abortion than enact comprehensive 'health care reform.'

"With the defeat of the Nelson-Hatch amendment, pro-abortion groups have won an unfortunate victory in their quest for unhindered government funding for abortion-on-demand. Rather than maintain current policy to prevent government funding for abortions in this health care bill, senators voted to placate the abortion industry and, in some cases, a desperate allegiance to abortion as a central tenet of their public policy vision. The Senate health care bill would force American taxpayers to foot the bill for abortion-on-demand in both the public option and in private plans.

"We know that abortions increased when the government funded it in the 1970's before the Hyde amendment was passed. Even the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood's research arm, says that abortions would increase by 25 percent if the government funds it.

"FRC Action urges every Senator who supported the Nelson-Hatch amendment to now oppose any vote to end debate on this abortion expansion bill," Perkins concluded.

In response to today's Senate vote, FRC Action will expand its grassroots campaign in opposition to the health care overhaul bill. Over the next eight weeks, FRC Action will call all household phones in Arkansas, South Dakota, and Louisiana to survey each household on provisions of the Senate health care bill. These include abortion funding, rationing, higher taxes, and government-run health care, or the public option. Additionally, FRC Action will be calling pro-life households in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Survey participants who express opposition to the so-called health care reform will be given contact information for their senators.

FRC will also launch a TV ad in Arkansas that will again point out that abortion funding remains in the Senate health care bill.

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AUL Action: Senate Health Bill Now Leads to Unprecedented Federal Abortion Funding

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Senate voted today to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment, which would have maintained existing law by prohibiting both federal funding of abortion and government-mandated abortion coverage. Without the explicit ban on abortion funding, Americans United for Life Action will now oppose the final health care bill.

Americans United for Life Action President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest stated, "A vote to table the amendment is a vote against the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment. A majority of Senators effectively endorsed the abortion lobby's goal of mainstreaming abortion as health care."

The Senate health care reform bill explicitly allows the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to include abortion coverage in the "community health insurance option," and allows federal subsidies to go to private insurance plans that include abortion coverage. In addition, the bill also requires that at least one private plan in each exchange provide coverage for all abortions.

Dr. Yoest continued, "The Senate had the opportunity to follow the House's lead in ensuring that federal dollars are not used to pay for abortions. Instead, the Senate chose to reject the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment and continue down the road towards unprecedented federal funding of abortion."

Four major anti-life concerns in this health care bill:

1) Unprecedented abortion funding: The Senate bill explicitly allows the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to include abortion coverage in the "community health insurance option," and allows federal subsidies to go to private insurance plans that include abortion coverage. In addition, the bill requires that at least one private plan in each exchange provide coverage for all abortions.

2) Rationing of care: The Senate health care reform bill contains provisions that could be used to deny or ration health care.

3) Lacks conscience protection: The Senate bill fails to prohibit government entities from discriminating against health care providers on the basis that they do not participate in abortions. The bill also explicitly provides that insurance plans in the exchange cannot refuse to contract with abortion providers on the basis that they provide abortions.

4) Abortion as "preventive care": The Milkulski amendment added on the Senate floor could mandate abortion coverage under the guise of preventive care. For the first time in history, the federal government could require private insurance companies to cover abortion.

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Liberals Examine Immigration Reform

/PRNewswire/ -- Progressives for Immigration Reform has released a new policy brief: "The Economic Impacts of Mass Immigration into the United States and the Proper Progressive Response." The publication was authored by Philip Cafaro, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University with a long history of progressive political activism. This study examines the impact that uncontrolled immigration has on America's poor and argues that Democrats need to address their plight rather than swelling their ranks by importing less-skilled, low-wage foreign labor. The article reveals that current immigration policies widen income inequalities and concentrate immigration's harms upon those Americans least able to afford them.

Among the article's key findings:

-- Increased immigration has swamped American labor markets with
less-skilled, less-educated workers, driving down wages for
working-class Americans.
-- Government data show that when adjusted for inflation, average wages
in some industries with high numbers of foreign workers are 45% lower
than in 1980.
-- Among the biggest economic losers of current high levels of
immigration are poor Americans, ethnic minorities, and older
immigrants. There is no evidence of a labor shortage at the lower end
of the labor market.
-- Current immigration policies further economic inequality in the United

"In today's economic environment when many Americans are suffering from unemployment, job displacement and stagnant or declining wages, liberals should strive to set immigration at levels that work FOR America's poorest citizens, rather than against them," says Professor Cafaro. "Although the United States is a wealthy nation that can and should do its best to help the world's poor, basic fairness requires that we address the needs of America's poor before increasing the economic and wage competition they already face."

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Congress Has Allowed Most Previous Medicare Cuts to Take Effect, New Study Shows

/PRNewswire/ -- Despite claims that the pending health reform bills aren't really paid for because Congress never lets Medicare savings take effect, Congress has allowed the vast majority of Medicare cuts that it enacted in the past two decades to take effect and produce significant savings, a new study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows.

The analysis, by James Horney and Paul Van de Water, former senior CBO officials now at the Center, examines the history of every significant Medicare cut that Congress has enacted in the past 20 years - specifically, cuts included in deficit reduction legislation enacted in 1990, 1993, 1997, and 2005.

The authors found that virtually 100 percent of the 1990 savings survived; virtually 100 percent of the 1993 savings survived; virtually 100 percent of the 2005 savings survived; and nearly 80 percent of the 1997 savings survived.

"Today's conventional wisdom is wrong," said Horney. "Medicare savings have been a big part of all major deficit-reduction packages that Congress has enacted since 1990, and lawmakers have allowed the vast majority of those cuts to take effect. Given that history, there is every reason to believe that Congress will allow the Medicare savings in the pending bills to take effect as well."

Main "Example" of Failure to Implement Cuts Rests on Misunderstanding

In arguing that large Medicare cuts never "stick," many critics focus on Congress' repeated refusal to let the reductions in doctor reimbursement rates under Medicare's "Sustainable Growth Rate" (SGR) mechanism to take full effect.

But, as the report explains, Congress didn't intend the SGR to produce large savings. In fact, the SGR represented only 3 percent of the total ten-year Medicare savings in the 1997 deficit-reduction bill - only $12 billion of the $394 billion in total Medicare savings over ten years, as CBO estimated at the time.

Because it was badly designed, however, the SGR would actually have cut payments to physicians much more than had been anticipated and well below the level needed to keep pace with doctors' costs. Congress' decision to forestall these unintended cuts was therefore justified on policy grounds.

But, Congress did not simply cancel the SGR and let physician reimbursement rates grow willy-nilly. In fact, although Congress has since 2002 prevented the full SGR cuts from going into effect, it has cut physician reimbursement rates substantially below what was needed simply to keep pace with inflation. Even if Congress blocks the next scheduled SGR cut and freezes the rate at current levels, the rate next year will be 17 percent below the rate in effect in 2001, adjusted for medical inflation.

The Medicare savings provisions in the House and Senate health bills are very different from the poorly designed SGR cut. Instead, they are similar in both size and design to the past Medicare cuts that Congress has allowed to take effect.

Bills Contain Wide Range of Cost-Containment Measures

Claims that the House and Senate health reform bills lack serious cost-containment provisions also do not withstand close scrutiny, the report explains.

"These bills contain just about every reform that health policy experts have proposed to slow health care costs over time," notes Van de Water. "While we will ultimately have to do much more, the bills take most of the steps that we know enough about to pursue now in the areas that experts view as promising."

In Medicare, the bills would scale back overpayments to private insurers, reduce annual payment updates for hospitals and other providers, and, in the House bill, lower prescription drug costs. To reduce costs across the entire health care system, the bills would promote competition among insurers by creating an insurance exchange, cut insurers' administrative costs, invest in preventive care, penalize hospitals with high readmission rates, and establish pilot projects in various areas to help determine the best approaches to controlling health care costs (while giving federal health officials some new authority to implement some changes in Medicare based on the knowledge gained without having to enact new legislation). In addition, the Senate bill would impose an excise tax on high-cost insurance plans to discourage overuse of health care and would create an independent board with the power to implement cost savings in Medicare.

"Lawmakers can strengthen the final bill by combining the strongest cost-control elements of the House and Senate bills," Van de Water said.

Bills Are Fully Paid For and Would Begin to Rein in Long-Term Health Costs

A third major claim by critics -- that, in the near term, the House and Senate bills would raise the nation's total health care expenditures -- is correct but not a meaningful argument against health reform, the report explains. Covering tens of millions of uninsured Americans will necessarily raise total health care spending in the short term.

"There are two fundamental tests for any health reform bill: does it expand coverage without increasing the deficit, and does it begin to slow health cost growth so total health spending will be lower over the long term than it otherwise would be? The House and Senate bills meet the first test and hold real promise for the second," Horney said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that both bills would reduce deficits over the first ten years (the House bill by $138 billion, the Senate bill by $130 billion) and for at least a decade after that. Moreover, under the Senate bill, the total federal cost for all health care spending and tax subsidies in the decade after 2019 would be no higher than if we continued current law, according to CBO. This is a major accomplishment for a bill that extends coverage to more than 30 million of the uninsured, the report notes.

Finally, some critics complain that the CBO cost estimates showing that the bills would reduce the deficit are misleading and rest upon a gimmick -- specifically, that neither the House nor the Senate bill includes a measure to permanently eliminate the SGR mechanism. Since Congress likely will continue to prevent the SGR from taking effect, critics say, Congress and CBO should consider the cost of such action as part of the cost of the health reform bills. Once that cost is added, they argue, the contention that the bills do not increase the deficit is false.

Indeed, Congress likely will never let the full SGR cuts take effect, and it probably won't offset the cost of scrapping them. But that cost is neither part of, nor in any way a result of, health care reform -- the federal government will incur this cost regardless of health care reform, not because of it. This fact is undeniable: if health reform legislation were to die tomorrow, the full SGR cost would remain. To be sure, it would be better if Congress offset the cost of cancelling the SGR cuts. But that issue is separate from the question of whether the health care reform bills themselves add to the deficit or not.

The full report is available at

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization and policy institute that conducts research and analysis on a range of government policies and programs. It is supported primarily by foundation grants.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

AAHSA Statement on Passage of Bennet Health Reform Amendment

/PRNewswire/ -- The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) commends the Senate for passing Sen. Michael Bennet's (D-Colo.) amendment, which reassures seniors by protecting guaranteed benefits, and strengthens Medicare by keeping savings within the program.

"With the silver tsunami of retiring baby boomers fast approaching, it's important for health care reform legislation currently before Congress to address Medicare's solvency," said Larry Minnix, CEO of AAHSA. "We applaud Sen. Bennet's common-sense solution to preserve the promise of the Medicare program for many more years."

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pelosi: 'Today's Action by Financial Services Committee Brings Accountability to Wall Street and Big Banks'

/PRNewswire/ -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today following passage in the House Financial Services Committee of financial stability legislation that will prevent future taxpayer bailouts of large financial firms. This bill will be part of a comprehensive package of financial system reforms, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, that will be considered on the House floor next week.

"Today's action by the House Financial Services Committee brings accountability to Wall Street and big banks. When coupled with strong reforms to protect consumers and Main Street that the House will vote on next week, it will end the reckless practices that resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

"This major step forward would not have been possible without the leadership, vision, and commitment of Chairman Barney Frank. The Chairman's efforts to shepherd a comprehensive package of financial reforms through the Committee will ensure that Americans' homes, pensions, college savings and financial futures are protected and the House will vote soon on this legislation.

"We must bring to a close an era of massive taxpayer-funded bailouts, where banks and financial institutions gambled away Americans' hard-earned paychecks and engaged in practices that harmed consumers, punished responsible investors, shook the foundation of our markets, and left our economy reeling.

"Wall Street reform is a critical part of our effort to rebuild our economy, create jobs, restore the flow of credit to Main Street and small businesses, and establish the building blocks of financial security and stability for hard-working families nationwide."

Background on the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
-- Establishes a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to help ensure that
loans, mortgages, and credit card agreements are fair, understandable,
and affordable.
-- Ends the predatory lending practices that led to the financial
-- Prevents costly taxpayer bailouts.
-- Imposes tougher restrictions that end the riskiest financial
-- Brings accountability to the corporate boardroom by empowering
shareholders to have a say in reining in egregious executive pay and

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USAction Supports Afghan Exit But Opposes Troop Escalation: Too Great a Risk, Too High a Cost

/PRNewswire/ -- USAction today praised President Obama's goal of a concrete end to the war in Afghanistan, coupled with political and military benchmarks for success, but expressed profound concern over plans to commit at least 30,000 new troops to the war effort.

"We support the fact that President Obama has a set exit strategy because the previous administration did not," said USAction Program Director Alan Charney. "We are concerned that adding 30,000 troops to the Afghan war zone will make the goal of exiting Afghanistan within three years difficult to achieve. We firmly and resolutely oppose expansion of the war in Afghanistan."

Charney questioned the cost of expanding the war in Afghanistan - a cost that is expressed through the lives of Americans and Afghanis lost and the sacrifice and suffering borne by the families of those killed and maimed. "To paraphrase John Kerry: How do you ask a family to be the last to lose a loved one in Afghanistan?" Charney said. "The risk of escalation is too great. The cost is too high."

And he added that Congress and President Obama must weigh America's priorities in a time of deep recession and an unemployment rate of more than ten percent. "Investing in America's future means creating jobs, strengthening our safety net to address poverty, hunger and home foreclosure and paying for quality, affordable health care. We just cannot afford to expand the war in Afghanistan."

Matt Holland, director of USAction's online department, TrueMajority, said more than 30,000 USAction/TrueMajority members have signed a petition opposing the increase in fighting. "TrueMajority members were among the first to oppose the war in Iraq," he said. "We were among the first to oppose George W. Bush's escalation in December 2007. And we've been among the first to oppose this mistake in Afghanistan. Our members were right the first time and right the second time. Must there be a third time?"

USAction helped lead the Americans Against Escalation in Iraq coalition and many of its 28 state affiliates and partners organized on-the-ground events against the troop buildup. USAction and its online department TrueMajority also have been helping lead the effort to curtail funding for the F-22 fighter jet as well as other unnecessary and obsolete Pentagon programs.

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Health Care Provisions Still Soft on Illegal Aliens

/PRNewswire/ -- Assurances that the two health-care reform bills would not benefit illegal aliens are not accurate. A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies examines in detail the immigration-related provisions of both the House-passed HR 3962 and the bill now being debated in the Senate, HR 3590. The report concludes that the bills, in their current form, would indeed give illegal aliens access to taxpayer-funded health care well beyond emergency medical treatment.

The report, "Immigration-Related Provisions of Senate and House Health Reform Bills," is authored by CIS Fellow James R. Edwards, Jr. It is online at

Key findings include:

-- HR 3962 ensures illegal alien access to the exchange and public
option. HR 3590 states illegal immigrants are excluded from these.
-- Both bills ostensibly bar illegal aliens from receiving the premium
subsidy, and both bills use some form of eligibility verification for
the subsidy.
-- Both bills expand Medicaid eligibility. Both bills lack verification
requirements based on citizenship or immigrant status. Both contain
serious loopholes to enroll illegal aliens easily into Medicaid. HR
3962 automatically covers anchor babies.
-- The eligibility verification process in each bill falls woefully short
of protecting taxpayer liability to cover or subsidize people living
unlawfully in the United States. Both the House and Senate bills'
verification processes will encourage large-scale fraud and abuse.
-- The Senate bill exempts illegal aliens from the mandate that everyone
have health insurance or else face a tax penalty. This perverse
exemption treats illegal aliens better than the bill treats American

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent research institution that examines the impact of immigration on the United States.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Americans Favor Carbon Tax Over Cap and Trade, Two-To-One

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, the U.S. Climate Task Force (CTF) and Future 500 released the results of a new survey by Hart Research, which reveals that three out of four Americans favor legislation to significantly cut carbon emissions -- contradicting reports that public support had cooled. Moreover, "Energy And Climate Change Policy: A Survey among American Voters" shows that U.S. voters favor a carbon tax over cap and trade by nearly two-to-one. These findings suggest it's politically feasible for the U.S. Congress to pass a national emissions policy; lawmakers just need to pick the right one.

The survey, which polled over 1,000 registered voters across the country, found a carbon tax outperforms emissions trading systems across the electorate, including voters in every income bracket, each region of the country, and on both sides of the political aisle. Moreover, those who give higher priority to climate issues are even less likely to support cap and trade as the best solution.

"This poll reveals that only two percent of voters hold very positive view of cap and trade -- the system at the core of the current Senate bill," explains Dr. Elaine Kamarck, former senior policy advisor to Vice President Al Gore and current CTF Co-chair. "But it's not too late to salvage the situation. With both the U.N. and the Senate delaying major climate debates until next year, policymakers now have time to make a serious course correction in the emissions debate. And this survey offers Congress -- especially those looking ahead to the 2010 midterm elections -- the necessary guideposts for success."

CTF Chair Dr. Robert J. Shapiro, former U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce and senior advisor to Bill Clinton notes, "Support for a carbon tax-shift has been strong among economists and many environmentalists for a long time, because it sets a stable price for carbon, providing businesses and households the incentives they need to develop and adopt climate friendly fuels and technologies. It also provides accompanying tax cuts for American families. This new survey shows that the same attributes that make this policy appealing to these groups also make it the most popular option for two out of every three average Americans."

"By more than two-to-one, Americans want strong action to protect the climate, and they favor using the tax system to help achieve that," says Bill Shireman, President of Future 500. "We applaud the tremendous progress made to advance climate legislation in the past year. To actually enact required changes into law, Congress will need to improve on the current Boxer-Kerry model, to best meet the climate crisis and unite environmental, business, social justice, and taxpayer interests."

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