The next fight over Medicare and Medicaid..

The more we learn, the more I realize that I wasn’t harsh enough about the deficit reduction proposal put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan last week. In short, it’s a right-wing wish list, dressed up as deficit reduction when it would actually make the problem much worse. There’s nothing new, courageous, or correct in proposing to give tax breaks to those in the top tax brackets and corporations, to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with nothing to control costs, and to simply shift the risk and burden of increasing health care costs onto states and families, by replacing Medicare with a voucher program, and Medicaid with a block grant program. Paul Krugman calls it “ludicrous and cruel,” […] Read More

Not a Gentleman or a Scholar…

Some of the most outrageous remarks in recent memory were made yesterday by former Senator Alan Simpson to the national leader of the Older Women’s League (OWL) regarding entitlement to Social Security. Specifically, Mr. Simpson took it upon himself to respond to OWL in a very insulting and derogatory manner that 350 million women were in essence “sponging off” Social Security. We took more attention than most because we value the membership of OWL of California as a Health Access California member, and active participant on our board. The great Betty Perry of OWL is the immediate past president of our board, and a longtime friend and ally of our organization. An insult to her is an insult to us. […] Read More

Good news for Medicare…

The report by the Medicare Trustees this week was a big deal, showing that the new federal health law will extend the solvency of Medicare by 12 years. The federal health reform did this not by cutting guaranteed essential benefits–as some in Washington continue to suggest–but by making the reforms for a more streamlined and efficient health care system. President Obama took the opportunity in his radio address/podcast this week to spotlight the improvements to Medicare in the new federal law: Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

Happy Birthday, Medicare!

On last night’s Mad Men, set in 1964, a minor character said, after bemoaning civil rights legislation, stated, “If they pass Medicare, they won’t stop until they ban personal property.” On Twitter (search for Medicare and #MadMen), health reform opponents and supporters both loved the line, although I think the opponents didn’t get the irony. After all, despite the claims of opponents of that era, the passage of Medicare 45 years ago this weekend did not usher in communism, but rather an important program that is popular and crucial to this day. When Health Access and numerous other organizations celebrated the 45th Anniversary of Medicare this past Saturday, we noted not just its success, but marked the big advance of […] Read More

More federal help…

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that states are able to claim enhanced funds for Medicare Part D drug payments. This should allow California to get $680 million additional money from the federal government. This decision could mean an additional $160 million more if the enhanced Medicaid match–which the states get through December 2010 due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–is extended by Congress for an extra six months. The House has passed such an extension in both its health reform bill and its jobs bill as well. After some unfair and harsh statements, Governor Schwarzenegger struck an appreciative tone: “Today’s announcement shows that our bipartisan efforts for a more fair and equitable […] Read More

The Medicare Buy-In Option

The other night on the PBS Newshour, our colleague Jacob Hacker, who was briefly at UC Berkeley and has now returned to Yale, said that the Senate compromise on the public option was a bit Dickensian, a tale of two public options, the best of times and the worst of times—that is a public option that was an expansion of Medicare to a new population, those aged 55 to 64 was the best of the public option while he was disappointed by the trigger on a public option available in the exchange. (He’s also not impressed with another part of the deal, national nonprofit plans offered by the Office of Personnel Management.) What would a Medicare buy-in mean for California? […] Read More

National treasures…

Before I joined Health Access in January 2006, I worked for the federal government in a variety of jobs. I began my career when I was hired to take applications for retirement, survivor’s and disability insurance benefits for the Social Security Administration and ultimately worked in 17 Social Security offices across the U.S. I also served as the Regional Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), formerly HCFA, in San Francisco. The regional office was responsible for Medicare and Medicaid in the four western states (including California) and the Pacific Territories. While these programs are complex, they remain important and are widely respected. Government programs have many detractors. All programs have coverage gaps and other flaws because […] Read More

It’s ALL bad….

I missed this story yesterday, but the Wall Street Journal reported that we’ve got it all wrong — McCain’s plan wouldn’t tax the health care benefits we get from our jobs. Wouldn’t think about it! And in fact, Obama is lying about it! (By the way: McCain didn’t seem to contest the idea that he was taxing employer-sponsored coverage when it was brought up by others, such as the Commonwealth Fund in their January 2008 analysis, this story in the New York Times from May 2008, or this description of his plan from his own website from February 2008, (which I handily printed out at the time, made into a pdf and highlighted for relevant comparisons). I noticed on his […] Read More

A fighter throughout…

Our wishes go out to Joan Lee,who has been in the hospital for a few weeks now, battling cancer. We at Health Access California have worked with Joan closely in her leadership role with the Gray Panthers, on everything from fighting budget cuts to fighting the price-gouging of prescription drug companies. Health Access has had a joint project with her and the Gray Panthers, along with other senior groups, around the implementation of Medicare Part D, and a broader range of senior health policy issues. She’s been active in Democratic circles, and in building bridges between the senior and disability communities. She was cited last year as a California Senior Leader by the UC-Berkeley School of Public Health, which described […] Read More


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the big victory–not by the American League in the All-Star Game, but by seniors and doctors in the big Medicare showdown. The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate both voted overwhelmingly to override President Bush’s veto of the Medicare bill, which reverses a cut to doctor’s reimbursement rates in Medicare, pays for it with cut to overpayments to private insurers, and also installs some new consumer improvements for seniors. It was backed by consumer groups like AARP and Families USA, as well as the key doctors’ lobby, the American Medical Association. Some blogs that have good analysis include Managed Care Matters, Health Beat Blog, and the Health Care Policy and […] Read More