Saturday, July 5, 2008

The AARP is going to roll over the republicans like a Mack truck this fall

In what has to be absolutely the most utterly stupid political move of the modern era, the Senate republicans have used their penchant for obstructionism and obstreperation to cut Medicare payments to physicians. (It passed the House in a bipartisan landslide.) I first posted about this a week ago, and at that time I said "I'll be keeping an eye on the AARP website after the recess. If they get in on the act and start calling out Senators by name, Katy bar the door."

Well, they didn't even wait until Congress is back next week. The AARP has already taken after Arlen Specter

"We are deeply troubled that Senator Specter voted to block a bill with bipartisan support that would have preserved patients’ access to their doctors and improved Medicare for the 44 million Americans who depend o¬n it,” said Estella Hyde, AARP Pennsylvania State President. “For the sake of older Americans, people with disabilities and military families, we urge Senator Specter to listen to his constituents and reconsider his vote when the bill comes up again after the congressional recess.”

In addition to preventing a 10 percent cut to payments to doctors, the Medicare bill would have: helped keep premiums fair; strengthened protections for lower income beneficiaries; improved Medicare’s coverage of preventive services, and made Medicare more efficient through electronic prescribing. The Senate is currently scheduled to reconsider H.R. 6331 immediately following the July 4th recess.

“Because of this vote, the Senate went home for July 4th recess leaving care for our nation’s seniors, disabled individuals, and military families hanging in the balance,” said Peter Lund, M.D., president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “We call o¬n Senator Specter to reconsider his vote and return to Washington to do what’s right – vote to ensure patient access to care and improve health security for 44 million Americans.”

Throughout the debate o¬n Medicare legislation, AARP, AMA, and the Pennsylvania Medical Society have engaged their members in the fight to keep Medicare fair and protect access to doctors.

Hundreds of thousands of AARP supporters, including 36,826 in Pennsylvania, called and emailed Congress, signed petitions, wrote letters to their local papers, and participated in Keep Medicare Fair events around the country over the last several weeks.

In addition, more than 41,000 patients and physicians called Congress in June through the AMA grassroots hotline, and the AMA is airing new radio and television ads that urge opponents of H.R. 6331 to put patients’ access to care before insurance profits by voting for the bill as soon as they return to Washington from their holiday recess.
Now I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth - and the republicans have delivered us a fine filly with this latest bit of wingnutty goodness. But how unbelievably out of touch are the Senate republicans that they would pull this stunt?

At least the Democrats don't seem to be pissing away this opportunity. Dick Durbin went on the attack today, using a national radio address to call out republicans for failing to back the bill to stave off the Medicare cuts. "It's time for the Republican senators who are filibustering this measure to put our seniors and our military families ahead of private insurance companies and let the Senate pass this bill as soon as possible," Durbin said.

The current occupant and the obstructionist pricks on the right side of the aisle in the upper chamber don't like the bill because it includes offsetting cuts to insurance companies that use Medicare money to offer private health care coverage to about 20 percent of seniors.

I find the whole spectacle surreal. I am loving the show, but that doesn't mean I understand thing one about the thinking that went into this idiotic move.

Seniors vote. They never miss a chance to cast a ballot. They are also more likely to live on a fixed income and to rely on "safety net" programs, so the prices of food and fuel have already taken a toll on Seniors and affected the chances of Seniors voting for republicans in November. The same costs that are squeezing the budgets of Seniors are squeezing the estimated 20,000 senior nutrition programs across the country that serve millions of elderly and frail Americans. Most needs are still being met, but advocates for the elderly and the disabled are worried that the ability to continue meeting those needs is in peril, and Seniors could end up going hungry. The worries are compounded by spiraling prices coupled with the flat funding, and donations are off thanks to an ailing economy.
"All of that is generating a lot of anxiety," said Bob Anderson, associate director of the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Across the country, nearly 60 percent of the estimated 5,000 programs that belong to the Meals on Wheels Association of America have lost volunteers who can't afford gas, said Enid A. Borden, president and CEO of the program that has been providing meals to Americans in need since 1954.

Nearly half the programs have eliminated routes or consolidated meal services. Some 38 percent have switched to delivering frozen rather than hot meals, while about 30 percent are cutting personal visits from five days a week to one.

"We're in a crisis and it's just getting worse and worse," said Borden, who is urging Congress to increase money for senior nutrition programs by at least 10 percent.

Two pending bills don't come close to that amount, said Peggy Ingraham, the association's senior vice president for public policy. A House subcommittee is considering a 6.5 percent increase for senior nutrition programs for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, while a Senate subcommittee is considering a 5.7 percent increase. The federal earmark for the current fiscal year is $758 million.

Cuts are already inevitable in New York City, said Marcia Stein, executive director of Citymeals on Wheels, where meetings are under way this week to work out details such as who will no longer receive meals.

"We have no choice," she said. "It's like trying to take a size 10 foot and putting it into a size 7 shoe."

Meals on Wheels volunteers have already started dropping out of the program, unable to afford the gasoline to deliver the hot meals to the seniors they serve. Other agencies have altered routes and schedules and changed the way they deliver the necessary nutrition and transportation services that allow seniors to stay in their own homes.

And all of this is going to impact how the demographic with the highest turnout of all votes this fall. Mitch McConnell, you magnificent bastard, don't you never die...

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