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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Major attacks in Pakistan since Oct. 5

Major attacks in Pakistan since Oct. 5:
Found in The Long Journal

Oct. 28, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed 89 Pakistanis and wounded hundreds more in an attack on a bazaar in Peshawar.

Oct. 27, 2009: A brigadier general who served as the director of defense services guards at the Army General Headquarters escaped an assassination attempt in Islamabad.

Oct. 23, 2009: The Taliban detonated an anti-tank mine and hit a bus transporting a wedding party in Mohmand. The explosion killed 15 of the passengers and wounded six more.

Oct. 23, 2009: The Taliban detonated a car bomb outside a popular restaurant in the residential Hayatabad area in Peshawar. The attack wounded 13 civilians; nine are said to be in critical condition.

Oct. 23, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed seven people during an attack at a security checkpoint near the Kamra Air Weapon Complex in the district of Attock in Punjab province.

Oct. 21, 2009: The Taliban assassinated a brigadier general and his driver during an ambush in Islamabad.

Oct. 20, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers detonated their vests at Islamabad's International Islamic University, killing five.

Oct. 16, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers, including a female, attacked a police station and a building housing an intelligence service in Peshawar, killing 11.

Oct. 15, 2009: Terrorist assault teams attacked the Federal Investigation Agency building, the Manawan police training centre, and the Elite Force Headquarters in Lahore. Twenty-six people, including nine terrorists and 12 policemen, were killed.

Oct. 15, 2009: A suicide bomber rammed a car into a police station in Kohat, killing 11 people, including policemen and children.

Oct. 12, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives as a military convoy passed through a checkpoint in a market in Alpuri in Shangla. Forty-one people, including six security personnel, were killed in the attack.

Oct. 10, 2009: An assault team attacked the Army General Headquarters and took 42 security personnel captive. Eleven soldiers were killed, including a brigadier general and a lieutenant colonel, along with nine members of the assault team; and 39 hostages were freed.

Oct. 9, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives in a bazaar in Peshawar, killing 49 civilians.

Oct. 5, 2009: A suicide bomber entered the World Food Program office in Islamabad and detonated his vest, killing five UN workers, including an Iraqi.

Read the U.S. House Health Care Bill

Here is the U.S. House of Representatives Health Care Plan Bill (pdf of 1,990 bill).

What are your thoughts?

We already know that end-of-life counseling made its way back into the health bill and that it will slap a 5.4% tax on wealthy. We also know that the bill will give those who don't want to be insured an additional 2.5% income tax, and employers who don't meet the new bureaucratic insurance standard will see an 8% tax increase. Oh, and there's that whole abortion thing...

What else strikes you as interesting about this bill?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Executive Pay

Political Cartoon by Gary Varvel

Patrick Henry: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

Patrick Henry
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them?

Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free -- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained -- we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable -- and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace -- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Broken Common Bond

Thomas Paine argues for a restoration of the American common bond:

Peace Accomplished

Peace Accomplished - CartoonPolitical Cartoon by Nate Beeler

The Left's Hypocritical Outrage, Flat Lies, Mischaracterizations and Blatant Libel

Remember when Rush Limbaugh had the unmitigated gall to suggest that Donovan McNabb was being over-hyped because America too desperately wanted to see a successful black quarterback? Remember the liberal outrage over what was, in actuality, simply a man's opinion about an athletic figure?

Remember when Congressman Joe Wilson had the audacity to shout "You lie!" after Obama... well... lied about health care coverage for illegals during a congressional address? Keep in mind, this was after Obama had just finished calling his critics liars in about a dozen different ways... What a "bigot" that Joe Wilson must be!

Remember when
Travis the Chimp went bananas, mauled his owner's friend and had to be shot down in the street? You know, that was a day before the infamous, "hateful," "racist" NY Post cartoon:

NY Post - Travis the Chimp Cartoon
Which, apparently, had nothing to do with the fact that a chimp had actually been shot dead in the streets days earlier. No, no. The chimp was clearly a Klansman's caricature of Obama... though, Obama didn't write the stimulus plan, and he is in no way mentioned or referenced anywhere in the cartoon...

If you don't remember these things, maybe you at least remember the resulting outrage feigned by liberals? From a virgin perspective, one might assume from these instances that the Left merely has a low threshold for intolerance. Right?


Remember when a gay judge went behind the scenes of a beauty pageant to call Miss California, a "dumb bitch" because she didn't agree with his definition of marriage? Perhaps you remember the hit teams put out to spread lies and smear Miss Prejean?

Maybe you remember when liberal blogs were abuzz with lies that Sarah Palin's youngest child was actually here daughter's?

More recently, leftist media outlets decided to fabricate racist quotes and attribute them to Rush Limbaugh so as to ruin his bid for the St. Louis Rams.

There are many, many more examples of blatant liberal lies - but the Left recently added another notch to their fib belt. Did you know that 30 GOP senators "voted to defend gang rape?"

If the bastion of unbiased honesty, AlterNet spins it that way - it must be true! And, naturally, the most trusted name in liberal news, comedian Jon Stewart was in lock step with the AlterNet line of thinking.

Let me speak plainly for a moment:

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was reportedly gang-raped by her co-workers while working for KBR in Iraq. She reports that she was then detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours and "warned that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job." Apparently, Jones has been prevented from bringing charges against KBR in court because her employment contract explicitly stipulates that sexual assault allegations can only be heard in private arbitration.

So, Senator Al Franken filed an amendment that would deny defense contracts to any organization "if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."

Sounds reasonable enough, right? Until you realize that 1) in order for this legislation to be enforced, the government will have to comb through every employee contract of any organization it wishes to employ - painfully mugging down the deployment process in red tape 2) we'll be putting the government in charge of telling us which private employment contracts we can and cannot sign 3) if individuals would just read their own contracts before signing, they'd be aware of these types of abuses ahead of time. That's not to say, if Miss Jones' story is true, that she's in any way to blame. Assuming she's telling the truth (and I assume she is), the bastards who violated her deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, as do those who have manipulated the law to keep the alleged rapists out of jail.

That said, the Franken amendment may not be the best solution to this problem. Instead of actively trying to punish those who directly assaulted Miss Jones, Franken's amendment would set a precedent preventing private organizations from setting their own standards for contracted employment - once again positioning the government as the sole authority above all things - as if that will fix anything at all. Even in an employee/employer agreement, the statists want to muscle in.

Perhaps, if Franken had instead proposed an amendment that would give employees the right to void their contracts with their employers in the event that one of their constitutional rights were violated, the GOP senators would have been on board. But, as it is, Franken's amendment is just more needless, unproductive bureaucracy.

Agree with them or not, these senators who opposed the Franken amendment, in absolutely no way, were "defending gang rape." It's absurd, libelous and flatly ridiculous to suggest otherwise. This was nothing more than a feel-good, fluff addendum aimed at retroactively hitting an entire organization well-known to spur the ire of the Left. It won't actively punish those who actually committed the alleged atrocities against Jamie Leigh Jones, which is what people should be preoccupying themselves with.

And then there's the bigger point:

It's unbelievable how the Left works itself into a lather if you dare call liberal policies "socialist" or *gasp* mention someone's ethnicity. But now it's ok to say GOP senators defend gang rape? Really? Is this what liberal discourse has come to, hypocritical outrage, flat lies, mischaracterizations and blatant libel?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ayn Rand - In Defense of Capitalism

The famous wit of Ayn Rand at work explaining the necessity of capitalism to a truly free society:

But if you think she sounds like a libertarian, think again:

(From The Ayn Rand Institute):
Q: What do you think of the Libertarian movement? [FHF: “The Moratorium on Brains,” 1971]

AR: All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies, except that they’re anarchists instead of collectivists. But of course, anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet they want to combine capitalism and anarchism. That is worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism, because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. The anarchist is the scum of the intellectual world of the left, which has given them up. So the right picks up another leftist discard. That’s the Libertarian movement.

Q: What do you think of the Libertarian Party? [FHF: “A Nation’s Unity,” 1972]

AR: I’d rather vote for Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, or Jerry Lewis. I don’t think they’re as funny as Professor Hospers and the Libertarian Party. If, at a time like this, John Hospers takes ten votes away from Nixon (which I doubt he’ll do), it would be a moral crime. I don’t care about Nixon, and I care even less about Hospers. But this is no time to engage in publicity seeking, which all these crank political parties are doing. If you want to spread your ideas, do it through education. But don’t run for President—or even dogcatcher—if you’re going to help McGovern.

Q: What is your position on the Libertarian Party? [FHF: “Censorship: Local and Express,” 1973]

AR: I don’t want to waste too much time on it. It’s a cheap attempt at publicity, which Libertarians won’t get. Today’s events, particularly Watergate, should teach anyone with amateur political notions that they cannot rush into politics in order to get publicity. The issue is so serious today, that to form a new party based in part on half-baked ideas, and in part on borrowed ideas—I won’t say from whom—is irresponsible, and in today’s context, nearly immoral.

Q: Libertarians advocate the politics you advocate. So why are you opposed to the Libertarian Party? [FHF: “Egalitarianism and Inflation,” 1974]

AR:They are not defenders of capitalism. They’re a group of publicity seekers who rush into politics prematurely, because they allegedly want to educate people through a political campaign, which can’t be done. Further, their leadership consists of men of every of persuasion, from religious conservatives to anarchists. Moreover, most of them are my enemies: they spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas. Now, I think it’s a bad beginning for an allegedly pro-capitalist party to start by stealing ideas.

Q: Have you ever heard of [Libertarian presidential candidate] Roger MacBride? [FHF: “?” 1976]

AR: My answer should be, “I haven’t.” There’s nothing to hear. I have been maintaining in everything I have said and written, that the trouble in the world today is philosophical; that only the right philosophy can save us. Now here is a party that plagiarizes some of my ideas, mixes it with the exact opposite—with religionists, anarchists, and just about every intellectual misfit and scum they can find—and they call themselves Libertarians, and run for office. I dislike Reagan and Carter; I’m not too enthusiastic about the other candidates. But the worst of them are giants compared to anybody who would attempt something as un-philosophical, low, and pragmatic as the Libertarian Party. It is the last insult to ideas and philosophical consistency.

Q: Do you think Libertarians communicate the ideas of freedom and capitalism effectively? [Q&A following LP’s “Objective Communication,” Lecture 1, 1980]

AR: I don’t think plagiarists are effective. I’ve read nothing by a Libertarian (when I read them, in the early years) that wasn’t my ideas badly mishandled—i.e., had the teeth pulled out of them—with no credit given. I didn’t know whether I should be glad that no credit was given, or disgusted. I felt both. They are perhaps the worst political group today, because they can do the most harm to capitalism, by making it disreputable.

Q: Why don’t you approve of the Libertarians, thousands of whom are loyal readers of your works? [FHF: “The Age of Mediocrity,” 1981]

AR: Because Libertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people: they plagiarize my ideas when that fits their purpose, and they denounce me in a more vicious manner than any communist publication, when that fits their purpose. They are lower than any pragmatists, and what they hold against Objectivism is morality. They’d like to have an amoral political program.

Q: The Libertarians are providing intermediate steps toward your goals. Why don’t you support them? [Ibid., 1981]

AR: Please don’t tell me they’re pursuing my goals. I have not asked for, nor do I accept, the help of intellectual cranks. I want philosophically educated people: those who understand ideas, care about ideas, and spread the right ideas. That’s how my philosophy will spread, just as philosophy has throughout all history: by means of people who understand and teach it to others. Further, it should be clear that I do not endorse the filthy slogan, “The end justifies the means.” That was originated by the Jesuits, and accepted enthusiastically by Communists and Nazis. The end does not justify the means; you cannot achieve anything good by evil means. Finally, the Libertarians aren’t worthy of being the means to any end, let alone the end of spreading Objectivism.
To be fair, Rand didn't label herself as a conservative either. Though, it's hard to reconcile why when you compare her view of capitalism with the definition of Conservatism. History suggests that her disdain for religion as a whole is the source of her denouncement of conservatism... but we've shown on several occasions that the intellectual account of conservatism needn't be exclusively tied to religion in anyway. I doubt it's the case that Rand lacked the intellectual fortitude to reconcile conservatism with secularism. Rather, it's likely the case that Rand sought to lay her own ideological path with "objectivism" and so sought to keep her philosophy distinct from both libertarianism and conservatism.

I post this video of Rand's thoughts not as an endorsement of her "objectivism," but merely as a means for looking into the past at one of history's greatest capitalist intellectuals. By whatever classification we give her, Rand was, above all else, an advocate for capitalism... perhaps one of capitalism's fiercest advocates ever. In a time when capitalism faces extinction at the hands of the statist, it cannot hurt to look back upon the words of those who helped champion capitalism to it's prior (and current) successes.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Medicare and Health Care Reform

There has been much contention regarding what effects, if any, health reform would have on medicare beneficiaries. This is a summary of the salient points made by both sides of the debate. The conclusion being: those relying on medicare Advantage will have benefits cut, yet Democrats cannot fund their government-run insurance option without first pushing out the private sector-run Medicare Advantage.

Heritage Foundation - Obamacare Does Cut Your Medicare Benefits

Over one in five Medicare patients are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plans that President Obama wants to completely cut. The benefits that over 10.5 million seniors would probably lose as a result of President Obama’s $200 billion in Medicare Advantage cuts include:
  • Prescription drug coverage
  • Preventive-care services
  • Coor¬dinated care for chronic conditions
  • Routine physical examinations
  • Additional hospitalization
  • Skilled nursing facility stays
  • Routine eye and hearing examinations
  • Glasses and hearing aids
Congress has been down this road before. After con­gressional cuts in Medicare Plus Choice in 1997, millions of seniors lost access to private health coverage. Heritage fellow Bob Moffit explains:

‘Traditional Medicare routinely covers only 54 percent of the total spending for beneficia­ries’ health care.[10] Without access to Medicare Advantage plans, seniors would have two choices: either settle for the inferior level of coverage of tra­ditional Medicare and go without the additional benefits or buy additional coverage through Medi­gap or some other supplemental coverage option. Meanwhile, the rollback of Medicare Advantage plans would impose a disproportionate burden on the low-income and minority seniors who enroll in them, as well as reduce seniors’ access to Medicare Advantage plans in rural areas.’”

USA Today - Seniors defend Medicare plan Obama calls 'wasteful'

“Medicare Advantage, which has 10.2 million enrollees, comprises about one-fifth of all Medicare participants. Medicare Advantage has its roots in the 1970s but was bolstered in 2003 in hopes that private companies could manage Medicare patients more efficiently. Partly because it often has lower out-of-pocket costs than traditional Medicare, enrollment has nearly doubled over six years, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.

Critics, including Obama, say the plans offer lower premiums because insurance companies are subsidized by taxpayers at a rate 14% higher per patient than regular Medicare. Lawmakers initially set a higher reimbursement rate to draw private insurers into the program. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says eliminating the disparity would save $150 billion over 10 years… Congress is considering changing the reimbursement formula.”

Wall Street Journal - Medicare For All Isn't The Answer

“Medicare reimbursements to hospitals fail to cover the actual cost of providing services. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), an independent congressional advisory agency, says hospitals received only 94.1 cents for every dollar they spent treating Medicare patients in 2007. MedPAC projects that number to decline to 93.1 cents per dollar spent in 2009, for an operating shortfall of 7%. Medicare works because hospitals subsidize the care they provide with revenue received from patients who have commercial insurance. Without that revenue, hospitals could not afford to care for those covered by Medicare. In effect, everyone with insurance is subsidizing the Medicare shortfall, which is growing larger every year.

If hospitals had to rely solely on Medicare reimbursements for operating revenue, as would occur under a single-payer system, many hospitals would be forced to eliminate services, cut investments in advanced medical technology, reduce the number of nurses and other employees, and provide less care for the patients they serve. And with the government in control, Americans eventually will see rationing, the denial of high-priced drugs and sophisticated procedures, and long waits for care.”

Wall Street Journal - Obama Targets Medicare Advantage

“… According to a White House fact sheet titled "Paying for Health Care Reform," (White House Senior Adviser David) Axelrod… notes the administration would cut $622 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, with a big chunk coming from Medicare Advantage, to pay for overhauling health care. Mr. Obama heralded these cuts as "common sense" in his June 13 radio address… Mr. Obama is proposing to cut the program by nearly 20% and thus reduce the amount of money each will have to buy insurance. This will likely force most of them to lose the insurance they have now… There are roughly 23,400 seniors on average in a congressional district who have Medicare Advantage.”

Wall Street Journal - Medicare for Dummies

“Medicare's unfunded liability—the gap between revenues and promised benefits—is currently some $37 trillion over the next 75 years. Yet the President uses this insolvency as an argument to justify the creation of another health-care entitlement, this time for most everyone under age 65… Mr. Obama claimed he can finance universal health care without adding "one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period," in large part by pumping money out of Medicare. The $880 billion Senate plan he all but blessed this week would cut Medicare by as much as $500 billion, mainly by cutting what Mr. Obama called ‘waste and abuse’…

So no cuts, for anyone—except, that is, for the 24% of senior beneficiaries who are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program, which Democrats want to slash by $177 billion or more because it is run by private companies. Mr. Obama called that money "unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies—subsidies that do everything to pad their profits but don't improve the care of seniors. In fact, Advantage does provide better care, which is one reason that enrollment has doubled since 2003."

AP - CBO Chief: Medicare Benefits Could Be Cut

“Congress' chief budget officer is contradicting President Barack Obama's oft-stated claim that seniors wouldn't see their Medicare benefits cut under a health care overhaul. The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare's managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee. The bill would cut payments to the Medicare Advantage plans by more than $100 billion over 10 years. Elmendorf said the changes would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries. Critics say the plans are overpaid, while supporters say they work well. Obama says cuts to Medicare providers won't reduce seniors' benefits.”

Boston Globe - Democrats seek cuts in Medicare Advantage

More than 10 million seniors enrolled in an enhanced, private version of Medicare known as Medicare Advantage - including 175,000 in Massachusetts - could see their plans shrink or be replaced with traditional coverage under the health care overhaul plans proposed by Democrats in Congress. Democrats want to cut Medicare Advantage by more than $120 billion over 10 years. It could leave seniors with fewer boutique Medicare options offered through private insurance companies or with private plans that offer fewer of the extra benefits such plans provide…

Private insurers can afford to offer extras under Medicare Advantage - such as lower premiums and coverage for eyeglasses and gym memberships - because the federal government pays them about 14 percent more per patient than Medicare typically spends. Many health policy specialists say that, with Medicare nearing bankruptcy and millions of Americans going without any insurance at all, the United States can hardly afford to offer a pricier Medicare version that is growing more popular…

The $120 billion cut to Medicare Advantage is part of spending reductions in Medicare totaling $460 billion to $540 billion over 10 years that have been proposed by Democrats. The cuts would fall on the government reimbursement rates for a broad variety of providers such as hospitals and home health agencies, which could probably absorb them without affecting the services elderly Americans receive, many specialists said in interviews… Most of the rest of the Democrats’ Medicare spending reductions involve asking providers to accept a slower-than-expected rate of growth in payments over the next decade… Some, such as payments to home health care agencies, were previously recommended by the Medicare Payment Assessment Commission…

Some specialists worry seniors could be harmed indirectly. Gail Wilensky, who ran Medicare under President George H.W. Bush, notes that many nursing homes depend on getting overpaid by Medicare to offset the stingy payments states provide for Medicaid patients. Curtailing those overpayments could strain those fragile institutions, she said.”

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