Right-wing tool

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, who represents my old district back when I lived in the Hellmouth. This is a guy who, as bad as most Republicans are, excels at the money grab. He should have a tattoo on his chest that says “Ask Me What It Takes To Get My Vote.”

Hedging bets

Watch how fast this goes away. No way do they want to piss off their Wall St. masters in an election year:

WASHINGTON/BOSTON (Reuters) – Executives at financial firms would no longer be able to buy insurance to protect themselves against compensation clawbacks or civil penalties under legislation introduced on Wednesday by U.S. Representative Barney Frank.


The bill, Frank said, is aimed at protecting the intent of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other laws that let federal regulators recoup compensation or impose fines on individuals who break the law or engage in unsafe conduct.


“The creation of insurance policies to insulate financial executives from clawbacks is one more effort by some in the industry to perpetuate a lack of accountability,” Frank, a Democrat and co-author of Dodd-Frank, said in a statement.


The clawback provision was inserted into the Dodd-Frank law in response to public anger that executives at banks and other Wall Street firms such as AIG were still being paid large salaries and bonuses despite mistakes that fueled the 2007-2009 financial crisis.


Frank’s bill ensures that anyone subject to a clawback is personally liable for any payments, and bans insuring or hedging against that liability.

Transparency

How on earth can you shop around when no one tells you what anything costs? Answer: Profit!

One of the main criticisms of consumer-driven health care is that, today, consumers have no way of figuring out how much a particular health care service costs. Indeed, one of the reasons that health care is so expensive in America is because people have no idea what they’re paying for it. Hence, it’s important for reformers to encourage hospitals and doctors to become more transparent about the prices they charge for these services. But an Arizona bill to do just that was killed—by the state’s Republican legislature.


Yesterday, Chad Terhune of the Los Angeles Times told the story of Jo Ann Synder, a woman who was charged $6,707 for a CT scan, after she had undergone colon surgery. Her insurance plan, Blue Shield of California, billed her for $2,336, and paid for the rest. But Snyder was shocked to discover that, if she had paid for the scan herself, out-of-pocket, she would have only had to pay $1,054.


“I couldn’t believe it,” she told the Times. “I was really upset that I got charged so much and Blue Shield allowed that. You expect them to work harder for you and negotiate a better deal.”


Los Alamitos Medical Center, Terhune found, charges $4,423 for an abdominal CT scan. Blue Shield’s negotiated rate is about $2,400. But Los Alamitos told Terhune that its cash price for the scan would be $250.


In Arizona, a state senator named Nancy Barto (R.), who chairs the senate’s Health Care and Medical Liability Reform Committee, sponsored a bill, SB 1384, targeted directly at this problem. The bill would require health care facilities to “make available to the public on request in a single document the direct pay price for at least the fifty most used diagnosis-related group codes…and at least the fifty most used outpatient service codes…for the facility.” Doctors would be similarly required to publish the direct-pay prices for their 25 most common services.


The idea is that patients who have health savings accounts need to know what various doctors and hospitals charge for their services, so that they can shop for value when they need care.


Sen. Barto’s bill passed the Arizona Senate, but it died in March in the state’s House of Representatives, where Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee refused to send the bill to the full House for a vote. (Republicans control both houses of the Arizona state legislature, along with the governorship.)
“Do we want free market health care?” Sen. Barto asked in a recent blog post. “Then why have common sense reforms that will produce one been opposed, defeated and/or vetoed at the legislature for the last 2 years—even though we have a Republican Governor and Republican supermajority?”


It’s a good question. “The short answer,” she writes, “is swarms of lobbyists. The longer answer is legislators succumbing to lobbyists on issues that should be rather plain.”

Adventures in Thyroidland

Awful insomnia last night. I take the medication about 6 a.m., you wouldn’t think it would be a problem. But it is. I guess this is part of the settling in until I’m on the correct dose.

In other news, the outer edges of my eyebrows have started growing back. It’s a weird thing, but losing the outer third is a classic marker for hypothyroidism. I’ve had a lot of those symptoms (low body temperature, flaking skin, nails splitting, brain fog, etc.) for the past ten years but kept testing as normal. Since then, they’ve changed the testing range and I would have been treated a lot sooner if the insurance companies didn’t rule what doctors are permitted to do.

Oh, I forgot to mention that right around the time I started to have symptoms, I started having problems with my voice. I had laryngitis of unknown origin for six months and when I went to a speech therapist, she told me my voice was about as low as it could go without being in the male range. So it would be nice if my voice went back to normal.

Julian Assange

British court rules that he will be extradited to Sweden, who of course will ping-pong him back to the United States – which has its own vindictive payback planned. There’s a long shot that it won’t happen:

Today a British court ruled that wraithlike WikiLeaks editor and catastrophically unpopular memoirist Julian Assange will indeed be extradited to Sweden, where he had been charged with rape and sexual assault. However, in something of a victory for Team Assange (Non-Hacking League), the court also allowed his lawyers an extra two weeks to “to consider whether to challenge a central point of the judgment on the correct interpretation of international treaties,” according to The Guardian. Sounds like the best two weeks ever!

This deportation postponement is something of another chance for Assange to steer clear of Sweden. The New York Times reports: “In granting that request, the court effectively opened, at least for now, a fresh opportunity for Mr. Assange to delay—and what legal experts said was a narrow and improbable chance to avoid—his forcible removal to Sweden.”

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