This is a clear pattern with Republicans. They shoot the moon on some grand gesture (remember the southern states that lost all their crops because migrant farmworkers couldn’t come in to pick them?) and then they have to deal with the reality of what they’ve created. They really aren’t thinkers:

When state lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2011 that moved $73 million from family planning services to other programs, the goal was largely political: halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics.

Now they are facing the policy implications — and, in some cases, reconsidering.

Ahead of the next legislative session, during which lawmakers will grapple with an existing Medicaid financing shortfall, a bipartisan coalition is considering ways to restore some or all of those family planning dollars, as a cost-saving initiative if nothing else.

The latest Health and Human Services Commission projections being circulated among Texas lawmakers indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium, poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have, as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control. The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million — $103 million to $108 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone — and the bulk of it is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.

Granny dying on the couch

My mom grew up with five sisters, two parents and one grandmother in a tiny little row house. She was deeply traumatized by the fact that after her grandmother developed stomach cancer, she had to spend months on the living room couch, moaning and crying out in pain. (Can’t give adequate pain meds, as you know. The dying person might get addicted!) Mom was terrified at the thought it might happen to her.

See, we told you we would do it! David Plouffe back in July 2011.

And here’s the thing. Raising the Medicare age will greatly raise the probability of Granny dying on your couch, or of you being that grandmother on the couch. You know it, any sensible person (i.e. non-Beltway bobblehead) knows it. If they shunt people onto Medicaid instead of Medicare, people will die. Because people in that age group have already lost jobs, burned through their savings and won’t be able to afford the premiums. The ACA allows health insurers to charge people in their sixties three times more than younger buyers. Premiums could be as high as $1800 a month if you earn over 400% of the poverty level (which is currently $60,520 for a household of two).

So the Very Serious Schmucks who are pushing the idea better be kidding. It better not be a trial balloon for the administration. Because if it is, we’re going to have to fight back hard.

Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

This adaptation of Charle’s Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” was TV’s very first animated Christmas special, and it’s still a memorable one. It’s a musical, and the songs are written by Jule Styne (music) and Bob Merrill, who shortly thereafter went on to write the songs for “Funny Girl.” (Trivia: Jack Cassidy – David’s dad- was the voice of Bob Cratchit.)

Who can forget the pain of young Ebenezer, left alone at boarding school as everyone else went home for Christmas, as he sang “I’m All Alone In The World”?

Some ways to save money on Medicare without killing us

If they were really serious about saving money from Medicare, the Very Serious Schmucks could follow some of the suggestions in economist Dean Baker’s book, “The End of Loser Liberalism”. Sure, they’ll tick off Big Pharma. But they can’t be any less popular than the suggestion of raising the Medicare age, right?

For example, the nation will spend close to $300 billion in 2011 on prescription drugs. In the absence of government-enforced patent monopolies, the same drugs would cost around $30 billion, an amount that implies a transfer to the pharmaceutical industry of close to $270 billion a year, or about 1.8 percent of gross domestic product. It is close to 15 times current federal spending on the main government welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and it dwarfs the money at stake from a main goal of progressives: eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Baker has lots of interesting ideas about how to cut Medicare costs. For one, he says we could simply give Medicare recipients vouchers to buy into the health insurance systems of other countries.

This big cost difference means that there are enormous potential savings from allowing Medicare beneficiaries to receive their care in Canada, Germany, or other wealthy countries rather than in the United States.

Figure 8-4 shows the potential benefit to Medicare beneficiaries, and dual beneficiaries of Medicare and Medicaid, if they got their care in Canada and split the savings with the government. The gains to beneficiaries would easily dwarf the average Social Security benefit in the decades ahead, according to the government‟s projections. Splitting the savings would both provide beneficiaries with a substantial boost to their retirement income and allow the government to address its deficit.

But I especially liked his plans for Big Pharma:

The importance of prescription drugs to our lives and health belies the fact that they are cheap. Few could not be profitably manufactured and distributed for less than $10 per prescription. The reason that we face moral dilemmas about paying $80,000 a year for a drug that may extend the life of an 80-year-old cancer patient by a few years is that we give drug companies patent monopolies that allow them to charge $80,000 a year. If the drugs were sold in a free market, we could avoid the dilemma and pay about $200 a year, making this a simple choice.

Of course, the research and testing necessary to bring a drug to market has enormous costs. But this expenditure has already been made when the drug comes on the market. The key goal of progressive policy should be to separate the payment for the research from the payment for the drug. If the payment for the research is made independent of the payment for the drug, then all drugs can be sold in a free market without patent monopolies, just as generic drugs are sold today.

The two main alternatives for financing research apart from the patent system are a prize system and direct public funding. Both would involve an expansion of public funding for biomedical research.102 Currently, the federal government spends $30 billion a year on biomedical research through the National Institutes of Health. For an additional $30 billion to $80 billion it could replace the research currently funded through the patent system. Even taking the higher figure, the government would soon recoup this cost through savings on drug expenses in Medicare, Medicaid, and other public health programs.

A prize system would effectively buy out patents from drug companies, with the price determined based on some measure of a new drug‟s effectiveness and importance. After buying the patent, the government would place it in the public domain, where any manufacturer could use it.

A system of direct public funding would pay for research in advance. Companies would contract with a government agency, for example, a much-expanded version of the National Institutes of Health. A limited number would receive large long-term contracts (e.g., lasting 10-12 years) to support research into specified areas. As the end of the contract period approached, companies could reapply for a contract based on their track record of achievement.

All the results, both preclinical and clinical, would be public, a transparency that should allow researchers to make informed assessments of the relative efficacy of different drugs and determine if some drugs are better for specific groups of individuals. The patents would be in the public domain, and so the drugs developed through this system would be sold at generic prices.

Obama to make anti-right to work speech today

Glad to see the president is really going to push back against this before the final vote, and do it in the belly of the Republican beast:

WASHINGTON — When President Barack Obama arrives in Michigan on Monday to sell his vision for addressing the so-called fiscal cliff, he will be stepping into a state that is currently witnessing a massive battle between its governor and labor community. And according to union officials, Obama will weigh in on the controversy and speak out against “right-to-work” laws.

Michigan is set to become the 24th right-to-work state, with Gov. Rick Snyder (R) poised to sign the controversial bill on Tuesday after it was fast-tracked by the GOP-controlled legislature. Thousands of union supporters protested at the state capitol in Lansing last week, and more protests are expected in the coming days.

On Monday, Obama is scheduled to give a speech on the fiscal cliff at the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant, as part of his public campaign to build support for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans as he negotiates with congressional Republicans.

The Obama administration told labor leaders that the president will also be weighing in on the right-to-work fight in his speech, according to union officials who spoke with The Huffington Post.

The White House did not return a request for comment, but on Thursday, it put out a statement expressing Obama’s opposition to what Snyder is doing in Michigan.

“President Obama has long opposed so-called ‘right to work’ laws and he continues to oppose them now,” said White House spokesman Matt Lehrich. “The president believes our economy is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights. Michigan — and its workers’ role in the revival of the US automobile industry -– is a prime example of how unions have helped build a strong middle class and a strong American economy.”

By addressing the issue in a high-profile speech, Obama would be giving it significantly more attention and providing a boost to activists on the ground who are attempting to raise awareness.

Nice Polite Republicans

Economist Dean Baker wrote this piece in response to an NPR segment on OH NOES NOT ENOUGH WORKERS TO PAY FOR RETIREES:

When people being portrayed as policy experts tell you that the United States or other countries face a demographic disaster because of declining ratios of workers to retirees they are mostly trying to tell you that they are not very good arithmetic.

You can either read the piece so you can argue with your brother-in-law, or you can take his word for it that it’s nothing to worry about.

Buying education

Even though I only worked at one for six months, I still cringe when I think about for-profit colleges like this:

The University of Phoenix played a key role in defeating legislation that would have allowed community colleges in Arizona to offer low-priced bachelor’s degree programs, interviews and state records show.

The for-profit college, which is one of the state’s biggest employers, provided research and political muscle for a multi-year lobbying campaign against “community college baccalaureate degrees” – out of concern that those programs would undercut its business model.

For-profit schools and community colleges generally serve the same working, non-traditional student demographic, but tuition rates at community colleges are often much lower.

Historically, community colleges have offered two-year associate’s degrees, with students then transferring to other schools to earn a bachelor’s degree – also known as a baccalaureate degree. Recent efforts by community colleges to offer their own baccalaureate degree programs have been controversial, in part because they dramatically expand the traditional mission of these schools.

But advocates say these programs – which typically require approval from state lawmakers – better respond to student and employer needs by providing affordable, career-oriented, four-year degrees.

Beginning in 2005, the University of Phoenix lobbied Arizona state lawmakers against the degree programs, arguing that they would cost taxpayers too much money, duplicate existing programs, and “harm” the private college sector.

The company also sponsored research, circulated a letter, and published an op-ed opposing the programs.

And in a 2006 meeting with Wall Street analysts, University of Phoenix founder John Sperling publicly credited one of his top executives with “killing the community colleges’ four-year degree program in Arizona.”

“I’m not sure I want to be known as the woman that killed the community colleges in Arizona,” responded former University of Phoenix president Laura Palmer Noone, “but I appreciate that plug for my political ability.”

The company continued its involvement through 2011, primarily as an influential member of an association of private colleges that lobbied annually against community college baccalaureate degree programs. The lobbyist for the association also serves as a lobbyist for the University of Phoenix.

The University of Phoenix’s lobbying effort against community colleges appears to conflict with the public image it promotes: a partner to community colleges and an advocate for working adult students.

Indeed, the school is planning to launch more than 100 new partnerships with community colleges, which will funnel community college students into bachelor’s degree programs at the University of Phoenix. These partnerships are an important part of efforts to restore the financial health and reputation of the company, executives have said.

One of the partnerships is in Arizona, where the company’s lobbying has helped ensure community colleges cannot offer their own bachelor’s degree programs.

Site Meter