North Philadelphia’s Bright Hope Baptist Church hosted a health event Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Day that offered free flu shots as well as help signing up for Obamacare. Patricia Coulter rolled up her sleeve for her flu shot provided by Walgreen’s, but the President and CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia also had her eye on sign-ups for Obamacare elsewhere in the room: “When people are healthy, they are energized,” she tells KYW Newsradio.
“They can work. They can provide for their families. You can’t separate health and well-being from economic and jobs and businesses.” Levana Layendecker from Equality, Pennsylvania: “Health insurance companies would often discriminate against LGBT people, charging more, basically treating being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender person as a pre-existing condition and that is no longer allowed.”
When President Barack Obama’s campaign machine restructured itself as a politically active nonprofit in 2013, one goal was to keep attracting the legions of small-dollar donors who had twice helped catapult Obama into the White House. Now the numbers are in for 2013, and they show that Organizing for Action, as the pro-Obama nonprofit is known, has been wildly successful. During its first year, Organizing for Action raised $26.3 million, with 57 percent of that sum coming from people who gave less than $250, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis of records released by the group.
Donors who gave between $250 and $1,000 accounted for another 14 percent of the total. Katie Hogan, an Organizing for Action spokeswoman, said the group was “proud” of its support from more than 421,000 grassroots donors who have helped the nonprofit work to “tip the scales back towards the American people and away from special interests in Washington.” During its inaugural year, the group advocated for Obama’s signature health care reform law, for action to curb climate change and for gun safety legislation. It has not contributed to candidates’ political campaigns or run advertisements boosting or opposing specific politicians. Obama’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012 broke records for the enormous sums they collected from individual donors who gave small-dollar amounts.
Washington Post: Democrats Win State Senate Seat In Northern Virginia – And Perhaps Control Of The Chamber
Democrats remained on course to take control of the Virginia Senate after winning a key special election Tuesday, as thousands of Northern Virginia voters braved snow and bitter winds to cast ballots in an unusual, three-way contest. In the race to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), Democrat Jennifer Wexton prevailed over Republican John Whitbeck and independent Joe T. May, a former Republican delegate running as an independent, according to unofficial election results. The district encompasses a slice of Fairfax County and a hefty portion of eastern Loudoun County, a region that has leaned toward Democrats in recent elections but remains battleground territory.
With the Virginia Senate previously split 20-20, Democrats must hold the two seats vacated by Herring and Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D) so they don’t lose control to Republicans. If the chamber remains evenly divided, Northam would act as a tie-breaking vote, giving Democrats control of the chamber. The race to replace Northam in his former Senate district, which is based in Norfolk and also leans Democratic, remains undecided. Del. Lynwood W. Lewis (D-Accomack) was certified the winner of a special election by just nine votes, prompting Republican Wayne Coleman on Thursday to request a recount.
The Independent: Pope Francis Tells Davos Business Leaders: ‘Ensure Humanity Is Served By Wealth, Not Ruled By It’
Pope Francis has challenged the world’s business leaders to put their wealth to good use in serving humanity, and to oversee the “better distribution of wealth”. In a message addressing more than 2,500 participants at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland yesterday, he said more must be done to promote the “growth of equality” alongside an economic recovery.
The Pope’s comments came as a report released by Oxfam found that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire international population, around 3.5 billion people. “I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it,” Pope Francis said in the message read at the opening ceremony by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice.
“The growth of equality demands something more than economic growth, even though it presupposes it. It demands first of all ‘a transcendent vision of the person’,” he said in the message. “It also calls for decisions, mechanisms and processes directed to a better distribution of wealth, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.”
The drinking water in nine West Virginia counties has finally been declared safe, or mostly safe. But many people say they can still smell the licorice-like odor of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol — in the sink, in the shower, in the air, especially in neighborhoods close to the Elk River. I say “mostly” because so little is known about the toxicity of the chemical, known as MCHM, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised pregnant women in the affected area not to drink the water, at least for now. Unfortunately, this warning came after the CDC had already told residents the water was safe for everyone.
More than a week since the chemical spill in Charleston, the state capital, contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people, there has been little solid information about the danger to human health — and little outrage from officials in Washington, who seem to expect West Virginians to take the whole thing in stride. I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if this had happened on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or in one of the wealthier Zip codes of Southern California. Imagine living for a week without tap water for drinking, cooking, bathing, even washing clothes. Imagine restaurants having to shut down, hotels putting sinks and showers off-limits, nursing homes trying to care for patients with only bottled water at their disposal. Imagine learning that there was essentially no information on the long-term health effects of a chemical you could smell everywhere you went.
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were charged Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond area businessman who sought special treatment from state government. Authorities allege that for nearly two years, the McDonnells repeatedly asked executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. for loans and gifts of money, clothes, golf fees and equipment, trips, and private plane rides. The gifts and loans totaled at least $165,000.
In exchange, authorities allege, the McDonnells worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governor’s office to Williams’s struggling company, Star Scientific, a former small cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements. McDonnell, 59, is the first governor ever to face criminal charges in Virginia, a state that has prided itself on a history of clean and ethical politics, and the charges will probably accelerate a push for the legislature to tighten state ethics laws. The criminal prosecution marks a stunning crash for a politician who was considered for the Republican vice presidential nomination in 2012 and who, just a year ago, was considered a credible prospective candidate for president.
Jon Terbush: The Sleeper Issue That Could Help Democrats In 2014
However, there is one crucial piece of ObamaCare that may well become a big winner for Democrats by the end of the year: The dramatic expansion of Medicaid. Unlike the overall law, the expansion of Medicaid is actually quite popular with voters of all political stripes. Even in the Deep South, more than six in ten support expanding Medicaid, according to one survey last year; conservatives split almost evenly on the issue. This presents the GOP with two interconnected problems.
First, it undermines part of the party’s “repeal” crusade, since nixing ObamaCare would mean ending a popular policy that has already extended benefits to millions of Americans, many of them previously uninsured. In red West Virginia, some 75,000 people have already enrolled in Medicaid, far higher than expected, according to The New York Times. As a result, the number of uninsured people in the state has plummeted by about a third. That’s a perfect 2014 Democratic ad campaign right there: People are happy now that they’re covered by Medicaid, and Republicans want to take it away.
Without the scandal-engulfed New Jersey governor, Republicans don’t have a candidate who could even come close to the votes needed to win the presidency in 2016. I trust you’re enjoying the Christie panic among Republican establishment types as much as I am. That New York Times story on Sunday, with big boosters like Home Depot’s Kenneth Langone fretting publicly that he really must surround himself with better people (so it’s their fault!), combined with the cable damage-control efforts by the likes of Rudy Giuliani, really shows the extent to which the party big shots have been counting on Christie to save them.
The fact that the GOP establishment needs to come face-to-face with is that they have no one to blame for this but themselves. They’ve reached the point where they almost have to have a Northeasterner like Christie to run for president, just as they had to settle for Romney last time. They’ve let their party go so far off the deep end that practically no Republican officeholder from any other region of the country could appeal to enough moderates in enough purple and blue states to win back the territory the party ceded to the Democrats in the last two elections. Remember: the Republicans come into the next presidential election with 206 reliable electoral votes from states their nominees have won at least four of the last six elections. The Democrats’ corresponding number is 257 (just 13 shy of the victory threshold).
In his long interview with David Remnick in the latest issue of The New Yorker, President Obama gave a few thoughts on the dynamics behind his job approval rating. For anyone who studies public opinion, and the intersection of politics and race, they were banal: “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President,” Obama said. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”
Naturally, this led to an explosion of sputtering outrage from the right-wing, which was shocked that Obama would even mention race, much less in the context of his approval rating. This isn’t a coincidence. What political scientists call “racial resentment”—the intersection of anti-black sentiments and traditional American views on hard work and individualism—is one of the most reliable predicators of partisan affiliation. And according to a 2010 paper by political scientists Michael Tesler and David Sears, voters high on the racial resentment scale became more partisan in their attachment to the Republican Party.
Indeed, according to another paper from researchers at the University of Michigan, Stanford, and the University of Chicago, there’s been a marked increase in the number of voters with explicit anti-black attitudes in the last five years, which rose from 47.6 percent in 2008 to 50.9 percent in 2012. What’s more, anti-black attitudes are heavily distributed on the right side of the political divide, though they exist among Democrats and independents as well.
Covered California™ and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced today that 500,108 Californians enrolled for health insurance and selected plans through the end of 2013 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while 584,000 applicants were determined likely eligible for Medi-Cal coverage. DHCS also transitioned 630,000 individuals into the Medi-Cal program from the state’s Low Income Health Program. The statistics, reflecting enrollment activity from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013, show that the demand for health care coverage in California remains strong. And the preliminary total of enrollments in Covered California health insurance plans from Oct. 1, 2013, through Jan. 15, 2014, has increased to more than 625,000, demonstrating continued vigor in the new insurance marketplace.
“We’re encouraged by the outpouring of interest and participation in the state insurance exchange,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “While our objective is to insure all eligible Californians over time, independent estimates for Covered California’s subsidy-eligible enrollment by the March 31 deadline range between 487,000 and 696,000. These impressive numbers for the first half of open enrollment and the continued momentum in January tell us we are on track to meeting, if not beating, those enrollment estimates as we continue to pick up steam.” Lee noted that of those enrolled so far, 424,936 are eligible for subsidies. “We are pleased that Californians — many for the first time — are getting quality, affordable health insurance to protect themselves and their families,” Lee added.
President Obama talks with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer concerning the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others, on a cell phone in the hallway outside the Situation Room of the White House, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern):
9:45AM: President Obama and Vice President Biden receive the Presidential Daily Briefing
10:45AM: Pres. Obama and VP Biden meet with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board
12:30PM: Pres. Obama and VP Biden meet for lunch (press pool to take pictures)
1:30PM: Press Briefing by Press Sec. Jay Carney
2:15PM: Pres. Obama and VP Biden meet with leaders of the intelligence community
3:45PM: Pres. Obama and VP Biden meet with Secretary of State Kerry
Andy Chow: Ohio Hospitals Try To Keep Patients From Coming Back
Bruce Vanderhoff is chief medical officer for OhioHealth, a network of 17 hospitals in central Ohio. And “it is no exaggeration,” he says, “to say that we are working with them to transform the model of health care delivery.” That transformation was sparked by a provision of the Affordable Care Act, which penalizes hospitals with high readmission rates. With a possible cut to Medicare reimbursement on the line, medical facilities around the country are thinking of new ways to make sure patients don’t need to come back for additional treatment.
Like many other hospitals around the state, OhioHealth is placing an emphasis on patient education, making sure they know everything about their treatment and medication before they walk out the door. Vanderhoff says it’s also important to identify which patients are at a higher risk of readmission. Hospitals do this by providing health coaches who visit patients’ homes and help further their treatment. Follow-up phone calls, pharmacy consultations, and in-depth meetings with a patient’s family are also used in the process.
SCTimes: MNSure Tallies 67,000 Enrollees In Wake Of Insurance Deadline
Minnesota’s health insurance exchange saw a sizable last-minute spike in enrollment ahead of a deadline for coverage. MNsure released its latest enrollment figures Friday. By the Dec. 31 deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1, the agency reported 67,805 Minnesotans had enrolled for insurance under the new federal health care law.
That means more than 14,600 people signed up for coverage in the last four days of December. Of the 67,805 who signed up, about 38 percent enrolled in private insurance plans. The rest signed up for the state’s two public insurance programs, MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance. MNsure stressed that the latest enrollment figures are preliminary.
NPR: 3 Ways Obamacare Is Changing How A Hospital Cares For Patients
The Affordable Care Act is transforming more than health insurance. In hospitals around the country, the legislation could transform the way doctors and nurses actually care for patients. Part of the law is designed to rein in the nation’s exploding health care costs by creating hundreds of little experiments that test new ways for hospitals to save money. One example: At Summa Akron City Hospital in Akron, Ohio, doctors are preparing for a new way of doing business. Michael Firstenberg, a heart surgeon at the hospital, says there’s something a little funny about the way he gets paid. If a patient comes in for a bypass operation, Firstenberg earns a certain amount of money for the hospital. “However, if that patient that night has to go back for bleeding, then I get paid for that procedure as well,” he says.
“And everybody’s happy because look at all the revenue I’m generating, independent of the quality.” As a result, everything is more expensive. The key question for health care reformers trying to rein in costs is how to create a less expensive system that still provides good care. Starting on Jan. 1, the federal government, the hospital and some of the doctors there will try a new approach. Rather than paying for that bypass operation and then paying again for bleeding, Medicare will pay one lump sum upfront to cover the surgery and any complications that occur after surgery. One payment for one operation, plus follow-up; that’s it. If the patient doesn’t have problems within 30 days of being discharged from the hospital, the doctors could make even more money than they do today. But if there are lots of problems after surgery, they could lose money.
TODAY, the anniversary of the shooting in Tucson that put a bullet through my head and killed six of my constituents, is when I make my annual resolutions. Many may look at me and see mostly what I have lost. I struggle to speak, my eyesight’s not great, my right arm and leg are paralyzed, and I left a job I loved representing southern Arizona in Congress. But three years ago, dispatched to an almost certain death by an assassin’s bullet, I was allowed the opportunity for a new life. I’ve spent the past three years learning how to talk again, how to walk again.
I asked myself, if simply completing a normal day requires so much work, how would I ever be able to fulfill a larger purpose? The killing of children at the school in Sandy Hook a little over a year ago gave me my answer. It shocked me, it motivated me, and frankly, it showed me a path. Predictably, Washington disappointed us during the first year of our work with the organization we began, Americans for Responsible Solutions. Many of you were outraged at the failure of the Senate to pass the background checks bill, and so was I. But I continue to be inspired by my fellow Americans. By any measure, they’re with us. They know gun violence is a complex problem. No one law will make it go away.
We’re not daunted. We know that the gun lobby, which makes money by preventing sensible change, relies on dramatic disappointments to wound us, reduce our power, push us back on our heels. Our fight is a lot more like my rehab. Every day, we must wake up resolved and determined. We’ll pay attention to the details; look for opportunities for progress, even when the pace is slow. Some progress may seem small, and we might wonder if the impact is enough, when the need is so urgent. But every day we will recruit a few more allies, talk to a few more elected officials, convince a few more voters. Some days the steps will come easily; we’ll feel the wind at our backs. Other times our knees will buckle. We’ll tire of the burden. I know this feeling. But we’ll persist.
Max Fisher: Robert Gates Was Wrong On The Most Important Issue He Ever Faced
Back in 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev took over as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the United States faced a really big dilemma. Gorbachev professed to be a reformer. Should the United States work with him to reduce nuclear weapons, ease the U.S.-Soviet proxy battles that were at that point directly responsible for a number of deadly conflicts around the world and, just maybe, try to end the Cold War? This wasn’t just a major, difficult question: It would turn out to be one of the most important U.S. foreign policy decisions in decades.
President Ronald Reagan eventually came around to the idea that, yes, he could and should work with Gorbachev. He was persuaded by, among others, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who famously said that Gorbachev was a man the West could do business with. But Reagan had to overcome the fierce opposition of a top CIA Kremlinologist and eventual CIA director named Robert M. Gates, who maintained for years that Gorbachev was no reformer, that he was not to be trusted and that Reagan would be walking into a Soviet ploy. Quite simply, Gates was wrong, overruled by Reagan, and the world was better off for it.
Isaac Chotiner: Bob Woodward’s Incoherent Afghanistan Scoop Shows His Anti-Obama Bias
Robert Gates’s memoir is all set to be released and The Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward got himself a copy. Unfortunately, Woodward’s account of the book is as flawed and overly simplified as, er, Woodward’s own books about the Obama administration. According to Woodward, it is a serious charge against a president to say that he had doubts about the “course he had charted.” Since the same author wrote three increasingly critical books about a certain former president who never expressed the slightest doubts about disastrous policy choices, you would think Woodward might know better. Apparently not. It wouldn’t be the first time that Woodward showed a strong dislike for the president, and allowed his opinions to get ahead of the facts.
Great comment by Nusholtz, a reader of Chotiner’s article:
“more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan” I also consider that a virtue. I heard one of the members of the President Obama’s Bin Laden group explaining that during considerations of the raid on Bin Laden’s compound, after the President’s advisers became entrenched in their positions during discussions over whether a raid or a bombing was the correct choice, the President had all of the details wrapped up in a volume and a fresh set of advisers were brought in. A decider who prides himself on his fact free instincts when making a difficult decision won’t have doubts about the course he charted. I prefer a thoughtful one who has doubts.
US added 238,000 private-sector jobs in December, above economists' expectation of 200,000, ADP says - @BloombergNews, @CNBC
When will some states that initially refused federal money to expand Medicaid for their poor citizens pull a flip-flop and accept it? Because it’s inevitable that some will—and as they do, the Republicans’ sabotage of Obamacare will be profoundly undermined, and people’s concomitant opposition to the law will start to vaporize. This thought is occasioned by the publication yesterday by Theda Skocpol, the esteemed Harvard sociologist and political scientist and head of the excellent Scholars’ Strategy Network, of an eye-popping chart about how health-care coverage is proceeding so far in various states.
In the full-go states, the average Medicaid enrollment (along with S-CHIP, which is for children) is 42.9 percent of those eligible, and the average attainment of coverage through exchanges is 37.2 percent. In the supporter states, those numbers are 15.7 and 5.8 percent, respectively. And in the “just say no” states, they’re feeble—just 1.5 and 5.6 percent. In other words, says the SSN website, “It is apparent that Affordable Care is doing best in the states that are really trying to carry it through.”
Jeff Cox: Private Sector Job Creation Is ‘Off And Running': ADP
Private sector job creation continued at a healthy clip in December, with companies adding a better-than-expected 238,000 positions despite the inclement weather. ADP and Moody’s Analytics said the month was the best for 2013 and pointed towards a solid number when the government releases its nonfarm payrolls report Friday. “This is it. We’re off and running,” Moody’s economist Mark Zandi told CNBC. “We’ve jumped to a new level of growth.”
Among the highlights: Construction jobs grew by the largest monthly number since 2006, adding 48,000, while goods-producing industries contributed 69,000. Overall, professional and businesses services again led the way with 170,000 new jobs, down a shade from November’s 182,000. The big number could sway economists to change their view of the monthly unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is expected to show 196,000 additional positions, all but 1,000 from the private sector.
President Obama takes part in a conference call in the Situation Room of the White House concerning the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Az., Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. Pictured, left to right, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, incoming Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer, and Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro. Also taking part in the call were Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FBI Director Robert Mueller (Photo by Pete Souza)