So the super committee that was supposed to come up with a plan to reduce the defecit has admitted failure. That's good news for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, at least in the short term.
But once again, physicians and other health care service providers face cuts of 30 percent in the rates they receive from Medicare unless Congress acts to close a loophole in the law. With our paralyzed legislative branch in Washington, there's no guarantee this will pass any more than the bill to raise the debt ceiling, which is an issue that didn't used to be controversial.
Every year, doctors, hospitals and other providers face a tighter squeeze as insurance companies and the governmenrt push reimbursement rates ever lower. Many doctors and dentists can't accept any more Medicare or Medicaid patients because they can't meet their overhead with those rates. Already, the single practotioner is almost a thing of the past because of this squeeze.
And even as reimbursement rates drop, insurance companies deny more claims. Doctors must hire full-time workers to fight for what's theirs, raising their costs.
Health reform has offered a huge gift to the insurance companies -- some 31 million new customers -- but they want still more. They want to get rid of any new regulations that might cut into their obscene profits. Meanwhile, their high-paid lobbyists work feverishly to weaken government programs that save lives, and they do so with a legal monopoly that they have no business enjoying.
I'm active with the Occupy Movement because I see it as the only way to break the stranglehold that huge corporations have on our government. Right now, 45,000 people are dying because they can't get care. Imagine what would happen if Medicare and Medicaid went away. If we don't act to stop the corporate greed, that's likely to happen.
A new Gallup poll shows that 50 perent of Americans believe the government has a responsibility to make sure Americans have access to health care. On the other hand, the same Gallup poll shows 61 percent of Americans still want the system in private hands, not run by the government. This month's Kasiser Family Foundation poll shows more than 60 percent view the law negatively.
For the first time, a recent CNN poll showed that support for the mandate to buy insurance (52 percent) is higher than the opposition (47 percent).
So, the results are mixed. People still fear that the government can't handle health care. But as more provisions take effect, more people approve of the law. Millions of people are looking forward to being able to get insurance, period.
At a gathering last night, two people complained to me about the cost of insurance on the private market; one of them hasn't bought it for herself at $1,500 a month because she just can't afford it, the other has it because his children need coverage and he'll sacrifice other things to make sure they're protected.
People are tired of struggling to keep their coverage. They're tired of staying in jobs they loathe because they need insurance coverage. They're tired of gambling their health will stay good for another year or two. They're tired of paying more every year for less coverage.
There's no telling what will happen to insurance prices, but the mandate for insurance companies to spend 80 percent of what they take in in premiums on direct care will make them prove they're not spending more than 20 percent of our money on huge bonuses and lobbying efforts. Of course the insurance companies are looking for loopholes as they fight the requirement as a whole.
I'm moving on the assumption that the law will remain intact. I consider it a responsibiloity to educate people about the law and its provisions. But I'll have a backup plan of action in case the Supreme Court overturns all or part of it. As I've said before, I refuse to give up until all Americans have affordable access to quality care.
Ohio voters' overwhelming rejection of a union-busting law comes as a relief to anyone who's worried about workers' rights, pay and benefits. Voters rejected the far-right view that workers can be treated any way corporate bigwigs choose to treat them.
Unions are important because they increase worker pay and safety on the job. As unions have been weakened in the last 30 years, more workers have lost health care benefits and more have been injured or killed by unsafe conditions, even as manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas.
Since our health care system still is tied to employment, it's imperative that workers keep the right to negotiate their benefits and make sure their coverage is enough to give them access to care when they need it. Too many businesses have gone to high-deductible policies that keep workers out of the health care system until something really bad happens. Although that's more profitable for insurance companies, drug companies, hospitals and others, it's disastrous for workers and their families and for small businesses.
In Mississippi, voters rejected an extreme anti-abortion measure that would have given zygotes the same rights as adults. It likely would have triggered investigations into miscarriages and might not have allowed doctors to take into consideration the life of the mother. I know even some anti-abortion folks who were pretty worried the law would pass.
Voters understood this time around that the extreme right doesn't have their best interests at heart. I don't think I'm being overly political when I say that the party that claims to want small government was about to turn into Big Brother when it comes to women's reproductive rights. Many of the most conservative don't even want women to have access to birth control.
Already, pharmacists who believe emergency contraceptives are a sin don't have to fill the prescriptions. It took court orders to get health insurance companies to cover contraceptives, even as they covered erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra.
Voters were wise to reject these extremist views.
Sunday's dinner was the best yet, with about 100 people attending, fabulous food, terrific music and a huge variety of auction items.
The list of thank-yous is long.
Thanks to Carol Duin for setting up the auction items for display. It looked beautiful.
Thanks to Ruben Orengo and Robert Anders for the music. It was perfect.
For the food, thanks to: Chef Adam Hayes of the Red Stag Grill ( who knew cauliflower could be so good?), Chef Jason Brian of Jack of the Wood, Hickory Nut Gap Farm, Cross Creek Farm, Vincenzo's, Bouchon, Modesto, HiFi Cafe, Cheryl Orengo, Chelsea Kouns, Asheville Pizza and Mela Indian Restaurant, and to my husband, Rob.
For auction items: Dianne Ellis of The Knotty Lady, Angela C. Alexander, Cara Berlin, Carla Standingdeer, The Asheville Citizen-Times (for a donation of cookbooks), Woody's Chair Shop, Cynthia Alleman, Highland Brewing, Craggie Brewing, Asheville Brews Cruise, the Asheville Tourists, the Asheville YWCA, Sims' Futons, Sunburst Trout Farm, Ten Thousand Villages, Mark Sanders, Peter Chapman, Gleason Pottery, Byron Ballard, Stephen & Karen Miller, Shoji Spa, Karen Shewmaker, Vivian Gold, David Jacobson, Vivian Gold, Joe Ruminski, Hunter Designs, John C. Campbell Folk School, Mission at the Grove, Cat Finks, Mike L. Robinson of Third Eye Woodworking, Lance Hardcastle,Brian Vasilik, Julie Covington ... I've tried to include everyone, but I'm sure I've left someone out.
It was a lovely evening, and it was worth all the effort we put into it. We made $4,300, and we're still accepting donations on this site via Pay Pal. We have a couple of beautiful auction items left, mainly because I don't believe an auction is the place for someone to buy a piece of art at a fraction of its value. I respect the work of the artists, and the value of their creations. So, we likely will raffle a couple of pieces, and the rest will be at our spring event, Dance Like there's Nobody Watching.
Eat at Mike's is a fundraiser, but it's also a celebration of Mike's life and spirit. He loved a good party, and it remains alcohol-free in his memory. He loved good food, and there was plenty of that. There also was plenty of laughter, and laughter always surrounded him.
I miss Mike a lot this time of year, from our shared birthday on Nov. 3, right through Thanksgiving, which was his favorite holiday. Eat at Mike's eases that a little because it's such a joyous time; it takes my focus off his loss and puts it onto a party that celebrates his life.
Thanks to everyone who helped and who came. Y'all rock.