Public health includes women

Where we are:

Facing vocal opposition from religious leaders and an escalating political fight, the White House sought on Tuesday to ease mounting objections to a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Catholic universities and charities — to offer birth control to women free of charge.
The White House has been skittish from the start about the new rule, which was announced last month only after internal debates at the White House that, to some extent, pitted women — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is Catholic; Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, and Nancy-Ann DeParle, the deputy chief of staff, on one side, arguing forcefully in favor of the rule, administration officials said.
On the other side, cautioning that the administration tread carefully and look for ways to minimize another major break with the church, they said, were several Catholic men who are close advisers to Mr. Obama: Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and William M. Daley, the chief of staff at the time. Also weighing in, administration officials said, was Denis R. McDonough, the deputy national security adviser, whose purview does not naturally extend to health issues, but who is a Catholic.
In the end, it was Mr. Obama himself who made the decision, aides say, calculating that at the end of the day, the issue of public health access outweighed the concerns of the religious institutions.

Just a couple of facts. Here’s the bare bones of the law:

What is considered a large business?
You are generally considered a large business if you have more than 50 employees.
Do I have to provide health insurance to my employees?
The law does not require employers to provide health insurance.
Starting in 2014, large businesses (those with 50 or more full-time workers) that do not provide adequate health insurance will be required to pay an assessment if their employees receive premium tax credits to buy their own insurance. These assessments will offset part of the cost of these tax credits. The assessment for a large employer that does not offer coverage will be $2,000 per full-time employee beyond the company’s first 30 workers.

For my part, I don’t consider these covered services “free” to the employee. My assumption has always been, as both an employee and an employer, that I earn or pay renumeration in exchange for work provided. I haven’t considered any benefit I got through an employer “free” since I was 16, working Sunday mornings at IHOP, and was told I got a “free” uniform but maybe I’m too cynical and jaded. Maybe health insurance, like employer contributions to retirement plans, is not earned but is instead yet another way dead-beat employees are scamming the system.

And here’s the services that have to be covered with no out of pocket cost to the employee:

Well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV testing, STD counseling, HIV testing and counseling, breastfeeding support and supplies, contraception, and screening and counseling for domestic violence.

The issue that is important to me is whether the government can effectively regulate large businesses, because that’s really a key portion of the health care law. I don’t know that I would have introduced this key portion in the context or women’s health, because we are absolutely incapable of discussing women’s health without a laser-like, exclusive focus on reproduction, but that’s water under the bridge.

I did want to mention Kathleen Sebelius, though, and thank her for at least attempting to approach this from a public health angle:

In 2011, Forbes named Secretary Sebelius the 13th most powerful woman in the world. Before her Cabinet appointment in April, 2009, she served as Governor of Kansas beginning in 2003, where she was named one of America’s Top Five Governors by Time Magazine. From 1995 to 2003 she served as Kansas Insurance Commissioner. She was a member of the Kansas House of Representatives from 1987 to 1995.
Secretary Sebelius is the first daughter of a governor to be elected governor in American history; her father John Gilligan served as Ohio’s Governor from 1971-75. She holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity Washington University. She is married to Gary Sebelius, a federal magistrate judge. They have two sons, John and Ned, and a daughter-in-law, Lisa.

She’s been plugging away on the health care law for years now and she just seems like the kind of hard-working, low-key, practical public servant that we really, really need in this country. She’s the daughter of a governor and was a governor herself, and yet she’s not a lobbyist or working for an industry she once regulated.

Tuesday Evening Open Thread

(Jeff Danziger’s website)
Now that the high holy days are over, I guess it’s safe for a non-participant to ask: Anybody read Joe Nocera’s NYTimes piece on “The Cost of Football Glory“?

… After talking to Booth, I tracked down one other person from Super Bowl X: Jean Fugett, now a lawyer in Baltimore. “Would I play football again if I could do it all over again? Probably,” he said. “But I cried when my youngest son took a football scholarship.”
Today, says Fugett, he can’t sleep more than three hours a stretch without feeling pain somewhere in his body. He has no idea, he told me, how many concussions he sustained; back then, “you didn’t take yourself out of the game unless you stuffed two ammonia tablets up your nose and your head didn’t jerk back. That’s when you knew you were really concussed.” And he views himself as one of the lucky ones. Most of the former players he knows live with far more pain than he does.
Thanks to rule changes aimed at lessening the chances of career-ending injuries, football is a tad less dangerous than it once was. But it is still a game whose appeal lies in its violent nature. You cannot play football at the professional level without having it affect — and quite possibly shorten — the rest of your life…

Chart Of Darkness: Belaboring The Point

Following up on Saturday’s post on the latest wingnut meme that Kenyan Soshulist Maths are hiding the truth that the reeeeeeeal unemployment rate among scared, crazy self-piddling conservatives is 157 gazillion percent, we see FOX and Friends is happily joining in the silliness.

“Are they playing around with the numbers?” fill-in host Eric Bolling asked. “Look, it’s the Bureau of Labor of Statistics. It’s suppose to be non-partisan, but that’s the Department of Labor, Hilda Solis. Hilda Solis works directly for Obama.”

“Are you saying they’re cooking the books,” regular co-host Steve Doocy inquired.

“I’m saying, there’s room for error,” Bolling replied. “But when you’re talking about four million people, how do you know?”

It is, of course, irresponsible not to speculate how President Notlikeus McTakeyourmoney is using his unholy control of Bistromathics to destroy working-class melanin-challenged America.  Since we all know there’s no way his dark policies could actually be improving the economy and adding jobs since there are still Americans on FOOD STAMPS, it’s clearly a deadly, deadly trap.

Later in the segment, Doocy declared war on numbers, science, engineering, calculus, statistical analysis and pi.  Because only “they” use numbers.  Real Americans don’t need facts to know the truth about THE REDISTRIBUTION OF OUR NUBILE YOUNG DAUGHTER-VIRGINS.  The only possible explanation for this is YOU LIE(tm).

Really, they should just send the White House the bill for Bolling peeing on the studio carpet in abject fear.  Abject fear…of numbers.

Snark aside, with the more unstable among us about three steps away from burning the President in effigy over birth control and Republicans trying to criminalize having cabinet departments, it really won’t be long before we’re having another “free speech right to do horrible, horrible things flashpoint” in this country.  We’re just waiting to try to contain the damage when it happens if it’s this insane 9 months out before the election.

Seriously, we’re to the point that actually having the Labor Department is now the equivalent of The Ministry Of Truth And Silly Walks.  How long before we get to the point where Tea Party shenanigans become so exponentially insane that Our Serious And Knowledgeable Betters tell us that the President should just resign now “for the good of the country” rather than risk his “divisive and polarizing” re-election to a second term?

Five gets you seven that column is already on Bobo’s hard drive.

[UPDATE]  This line of attack is now official, as Rush Limbaugh accused the President of “monkeying with the numbers” today.   Monkey.  Mmm-hmm.

Greek Fire: Burninating The Countryside

As the EU drops the hammer on Greece this weekend saying that the country has to go along with brutal austerity measures including minimum wage and pension cuts or else no bailout and and a default, Irish economist David McWilliams offers this clever 10-minute explanation of the European debt crisis.

Please note that the EU’s approach to what Greece needs to do: massive social cuts, forced austerity, balanced budgets enforced by law at the sovereign level, getting rid of the minimum wage, etc. is what Republicans say we have to do here now because our “debt crisis is even worse”.  And as McWilliams points out, the real winners are the banks and the one percent.

After all, none of them get government money.  All that goes to those various Others: welfare queens, crony capitalists, moochers and looters.  Certainly none of that money goes to people who need it, and absolutely not any of it goes to the one percent.  Nope.

Occupy the Toybox

Lego figurines, Kinder surprises and other toys played the role of ‘demonstrators’.
Photograph: Sergey Teplyakov/vkontakte

I would love this even I didn’t have a half-dozen tchotchkes on my desk right now. From the Guardian:

Police in the Siberian city of Barnaul have asked prosecutors to investigate the legality of a recent protest that saw dozens of small dolls – teddy bears, Lego men, South Park figurines – arranged to mimic a protest, complete with signs reading: “I’m for clean elections” and “A thief should sit in jail, not in the Kremlin”.
“Political opposition forces are using new technologies to carry out public events – using toys with placards at mini-protests,” Andrei Mulintsev, the city’s deputy police chief, said at a press conference this week, according to local media. “In our opinion, this is still an unsanctioned public event.”
Activists set up the display after authorities repeatedly rejected their request to hold a sanctioned demonstration of the kind held in Moscow to protest disputed parliamentary elections results and Vladimir Putin’s expected return to the presidency in a March vote.
Passersby admired the display with giggles, but police took it more seriously, examining its details and writing down each placard…

Worth clicking the link just to read the comments. I’m looking forward to seeing what American protestors can achieve with their homespun Makerbots and the fast-advancing field of 3D printers.

And then, * sigh *, there is the state-sanctioned “creative play” of this guy, complete with gender-biased color insult:

Will they be able to say one thing in Indiana, and another in Michigan and Ohio?

My hope is, actions have consequences:

Indiana’s House of Representatives approved a bill that would exempt nonunion employees from paying dues when working alongside union workers, a critical step toward final passage. “What you’re doing to the great state of Indiana, it’s a shame, it’s a shame, it’s a shame,” Democratic Representative John Bartlett said during floor debate as union workers shouted and jeered outside the chamber doors.
“This has nothing to do with busting unions,” said Republican Representative Jerry Torr, the bill’s sponsor.
Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, 62, who backed off a similar measure in 2011, supports it now, calling it a “bold stroke.”

Torr is lying, of course. His actions have everything to do with busting unions. While it’s true that Mitch Daniels “backed off” union busting in 2011, it is also true that Mitch Daniels assured union members he would not go after their jobs, but that was way back when he needed their votes. That’s the principled conservative pundits were swooning over Tuesday night.

Contrast Daniels, the current crush of national pundits, with Kasich, who is no longer the favorite of national pundits, on union busting, yesterday:

At a presser today, Governor Kasich got asked whether Right to Work in Indiana has any effect in Ohio:
“First of all, Indiana has a different set of government than we have. They don’t have any referendum or anything like that, and you can pass something if you’ve got the parties lined up. We’ve got a different situation here. And the one thing you have to do is, if you’re going to bring about massive change, that’s going to cause great unrest – I mean, I’ve learned this – is you’ve got to prepare the way. I mean, I’ve learned it. You take a look at our record, you know, you go out deep-sea fishing, you catch a lot of sharks. We’ve caught ’em. Once in a while the shark eats you, OK? That just happens, so what, that’s just part of life. But you have to prepare the public, and I don’t think the public even knows what this issue is. And believe me, they will find out what it is, with huge amounts of money coming in from all over the country. I don’t think the public understands it, I don’t think they’re prepared for it, and I would say that anybody that wants to move this thing forward needs to do that before anything else.
And in addition to that, I’ve just talked about the labor situation in the state, and by and large it’s been pretty darned good. At this point, I would say, if you really feel strongly about it, go out and tell people why it’s important”.

“Massive change” is how Kasich describes the coordinated conservative agenda in midwest states. Remember that when we hear again and again how Obama is a radical. This is going to be a really interesting issue in 2012. On the one hand, national conservatives selected Mitch Daniels to give the response to the state of the union, and on the other hand, recognizing political peril, former Fox News personality John Kasich seems to be in full retreat.

And then there’s Mitt Romney, who is keeping his opposition to private sector unions specific to carefully selected states:

If Republicans are going to make right to work a national campaign theme, they will need to do so cautiously, and South Carolina has given the candidates – and Romney in particular – an opportunity to test the waters.

I think the question becomes whether national conservatives can run on union busting in certain states, and not others, without revealing that union busting is in fact the conservative position. I’m wondering if they can pull that off. I’m certainly going to do my best not to let them get away with it, but we’ll see.

“The only serious opposition to the business lobby’s agenda comes from organized labor,” says Professor Lafer, who is also a research associate with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington and has advised Democrats. “There is a convergence of forces seizing on the right-to-work issue, saying: This is our moment to cut off our biggest opponent on a whole range of issues.”

True, that, and pretty scary stuff. In a country with huge income inequality, where working people have little or no leverage and no power unless they organize and get a seat at the table conservatives are taking the “only serious opposition” to the business lobby’s agenda completely off the field.

Massive change. Great unrest. That’s what Kasich said. Class war, indeed, and conservatives are waging it.

h/t to commenter Elizabelle for the Romney piece.

Gabrielle Giffords Stepping Down

Via NYMag’s Daily Intel. “I’m getting better… I will return.
Any Arizonans want to tell us about potential candidates who could keep her seat in the (D) column now?