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Archive for March, 2010

On nytimes.com:

WASHINGTON — Just days after President Obama signed the new health care law, insurance companies are already arguing that, at least for now, they do not have to provide one of the benefits that the president calls a centerpiece of the law: coverage for certain children with pre-existing conditions.

The authors of the law say they meant to ban all forms of discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, birth defects, orthopedic problems, leukemia, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease.

Insurers agree that if they provide insurance for a child, they must cover pre-existing conditions. But, they say, the law does not require them to write insurance for the child and it does not guarantee the “availability of coverage” for all until 2014.

William G. Schiffbauer, a lawyer whose clients include employers and insurance companies, said: “The fine print differs from the larger political message. If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost.”

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There is a piece that I wrote! (Second item on the page, under “Tyrant’s Foe.”)

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During the past week or so, my work at the CPPP has been focused almost exclusively on projects relating to health care reform, and in between sending out the CPPP’s letter to the Texas congressional delegation and editing, posting, facebooking and tweeting Texas Voice for Health Reform’s daily Health Care Stories, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time poking around in this nifty graphic that the New York Times put together, “A History of Overhauling Health Care.”

In particular, I’ve been interested in the first entry on the timeline, a pdf version of the August 7, 1912 New York Times in which Progressive Party presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt laid out his platform, which included a proposal for universal health coverage and old-age pensions modeled on German insurance and welfare legislation passed by Otto Von Bismark in the 1880s.

The framing of health reform within Roosevelt’s presidential platform cements my impression of it as a long overdue progressive reform from a bygone era—it was put forward along with Roosevelt’s proposals for women’s suffrage, the abolition of child labor, and the direct election of senators. Other parts of the timeline make me realize the extent to which this reform is a barometer of the political times—a far cry from what might have been politically palatable in past decades that were more receptive to progressive change (proposals for health insurance reform during the FDR presidency were described—not pejoratively—as “socialized medicine,” and many observers have pointed out that, right-wing jeremiads notwithstanding, this legislation is less progressive that the health care reform efforts of the Nixon administration).

And, of course, the work of reforming health care is far from over—there is still the Senate reconciliation package to improve the bill, and state implementation of the bill over the coming years. That, particularly, promises to be thorny, especially here in Texas, where Attorney General Greg Abbot plans to join with a number of other state attorneys general in challenging the constitutionality of the bill.

It has taken us a long time, and we’ve come a long way, but at least we’ve cleared this hurdle.

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Rep. Louie Gohmert on health care reform: “This should not be passed by anyone unless they eat it. If they eat it, then I’m in favor of them passing it. Otherwise, don’t pass it.”

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Dave Mann sets up the question

Candidate X is a long-time incumbent with a history of cronyism. Six months before the election, Candidate X cleans out the leadership of a state commission investigating a scandal that Candidate X was directly involved in. The investigation is scuttled. A major controversy erupts. One of the largest daily newspapers in Texas calls Candidate X’s behavior a “brazen abuse of power.”

If you’re running against Candidate X, would you: A) make this issue part of your campaign in an effort to portray Candidate X as a power-abusing politician or B) ignore it completely and never mention one word about it.

… and Jason Embry has the answer.

The Hutchison campaign asked a focus group last fall about the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, whom the state executed in 2004 for killing his family in a house fire. When the state’s Forensic Science Commission was about to hear a report in October that concluded that Willingham’s conviction was based on bad science, Perry upended the panel, creating a controversy that lasted for several weeks.

A member of the focus group told the Hutchison campaign that he admired Perry for having the courage to execute someone whose guilt was questioned, according to multiple sources close to the campaign. (Perry says he is sure Willingham was guilty). The response spooked the Hutchison team and, perhaps as a result, the campaign did little to raise the issue from that point forward.

Wow.

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Quote of the day

I’ve begun working on my next piece for the Observer, a short (very short) profile of border attorney Israel Reyna, who works with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, a nonprofit that provides free legal representation to poor residents of the Laredo area.

I’m not exactly sure yet what form the story will take—at 400-500 words, there’s not much room for … well … anything. But at this point, I’d like to pick a single cause (i.e., workers trying to claim workers comp benefits and being denied, day laborers being harassed by border patrol agents, etc.) and chronicle the obstacles it faced and how TRLA helped them overcome those obstacles.

One such cause that I am considering is the effort to improve the quality of life in Texas’ more than 2.000 colonias—border communities in which an estimated 400,000 Texans live without access to running water or sewage service. From the accounts of people I have talked to so far, Reyna has played a critical (and behind-the-scenes) role in organizing and providing legal guidance to burgeoning municipal governments in several of these communities.

Since 1999, there has been a state initiative to connect the colonias to running water and sewage service—a legislative push of then-Governor George W. Bush. While the state intiative has yet to accomplish much of what it set out to, it nonetheless has its heart in the right place. On the home page of the Colonias Ombudsman Program is a quote:

One of government’s chief responsibilities is to help Texans with the greatest needs. The Secretary of State’s Ombudsman Program is a central part of our initiatives to assist needy Texans living in colonias. The program is helping to provide better roads, bring water and wastewater infrastructure to areas that lack these basic services, and improve the quality of life for some of Texas’ neediest citizens.

-Governor Rick Perry

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Is it serious? Is it gallows humor? I’m not sure, but it is definitely the most amusing item related to 2010 primary returns.

Also of note: Ousted state rep and noted crazy person Rick Green seems to be headed towards the Republican nomination for the state supreme court, and ex-SBOE chairman and … um … noted crazy person Don McLeroy may have been ousted in the Republican primary!

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