Take the Federal Money

Let us set the scene: Your doorbell rings.  You open the door and there stands Dave Sayer from Publishers Clearing House holding a 24″ by 36″ cardboard check.  What would you do?

If you are a Michigan Senate Republican, you would tell Dave to wait for a couple of hours while you think it over and close the door.  The Michigan Senate has been dithering over Medicaid expansion for more than a year.  This would extend Medicaid coverage to all adults with income less than 133% of the federal poverty level, without regard to whether they are disabled.  Under present law, adults between 21 and 65 are only eligible for Medicaid if they are disabled.  Since this expansion would be completely paid for by the federal government, the Michigan legislature is turning down an offer of billions of dollars with essentially no strings attached.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said on July 17, 2013 that it is “probable” that the Senate Medicaid workgroup will have a Medicaid expansion proposal ready by July 24 and the senate would vote on the proposal in late August.  Considering that it is 40 months since the Affordable Care Act was passed and 13 months since the Supreme Court upheld the law, and the deadline to ratify Medicaid expansion is October 1, 2013, the Michigan Senate is next to criminally dilatory.

Mr. Richardville acts as if ratifying Medicaid expansion is a compex, difficult proposition.  According to Gongwer Michigan, Mr. Richardville stated, “I asked (the group) to give me a progress report and if we were ready, then we would take a vote and have discussion. But they weren’t quite there yet, (Sen. Roger Kahn) thinks they’re between a half and two-thirds complete with something, so I didn’t think it made a whole lot of sense to talk about something that wasn’t ready for a full discussion.”  He is trying to rationalize blatant, intentional procrastination.  How hard is it to write “Yes” on a piece of paper and vote on it?  Mr. Richardville and his accomplices do not like the Affordable Care Act, so they will slash the tires, put sugar in the gas tank, and smash the windshield – any destructive act they can dream up — to keep it from moving forward.

What is the point of this?  The federal government is knocking with the money in hand.  Refusing to open the door is asinine.  Considering that this money is intended to provide health care for the poor, it is also malicious.  Medicaid expansion would cover 450,000 Michiganians whose only sin is to lack a good job or rich parents.  If one per cent of those who will not receive medical care under the expansion die for lack of care, that is 4,500 needless deaths.

All the senate Republicans have to do is open the door act accept the money.  Anything else is misgovernment.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2013 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Ryan Plan to Include “Life Panels”

House Republicans passed congressman Paul Ryan’s deficit-cutting budget plan on Thursday, March 29, 2012, potentially a crucial plank in their election-year campaign platform and a foil for Democratic attacks over the plan’s savings in health care. One little-noticed cost-saving provision establishes an additional hurdle for applicants for Medical Assistance, also known as Medicaid. Under the new requirement, adults must demonstrate a reason to live in order to qualify for Medicaid. Analysts estimate that this could eliminate up to 50% of current and potential adult Medicaid recipients. Savings in federal general fund dollars could exceed $687 billion over 10 years.

Under the proposed policy, individuals must demonstrate a reason to live, by clear and convincing evidence, to be eligible for Medicaid. Acceptable reasons include: a) Objectively measurable artistic ability, b) Ability to engage in aesthetically-pleasing musical, dramatic, or dance performance, c) Significant mathematic, scientific, rhetoric, inventive, religious, or political capacity, or d) Being held in high regard or loved by a significant number of unrelated individuals.

To establish objectively measurable artistic ability, applicants must present critical reviews by three recognized art critics, unless paid by the individual or family members. The reviews do not have to be positive. In the art world negative reviews are considered to be more desirable and reliable than positive reviews.

Ability to engage in aesthetically-pleasing musical, dramatic, or dance performance may be verified by YouTube ratings or participation in juried competition. The individual need not win a competition, but must survive at least first-round elimination for the competition to qualify as clear and convincing evidence of a reason to live. Hip-hop is not considered music under the bill and waiving a sparkler on the Fourth of July is not considered a “dance,” unless the individual is able to wave a flag at the same time, without setting the flag on fire.

To support a finding of a reason to live by reason of mathematic, scientific, rhetoric, or inventive capacity, the individual must demonstrate that he or she is as smart as, but not necessarily smarter than, a fifth-grader. Religious capacity may be shown by a healing or other miracle within the previous 12 months. The individual is considered to have political capacity if supportive of the TEA Party. Liberal political inclinations are automatically disqualifying.

Being held in high regard or loved by a significant number of unrelated individuals may be shown by notarized testimonials of unrelated third parties. Testimonials of relatives are not considered, as relatives are conclusively presumed to be biased in favor of the individual. Paid caregivers, treatment providers, and employees of the institutions where the individual resides are disqualified from attesting to the individual being held in high regard or loved.

The bill would establish a “Life Panel” in each of the 57 states. These life panels would determine whether indigent adults have sufficient reason to live to be granted medical care. According to House Speaker John Boehner, the “life panels” are “totally opposite” to the “death panels” established by Obabamacare. The Speaker stated, “It’s as different as putting your pants on one leg at a time is from putting your legs in your pants one leg at a time. It’s as different as putting your hat on your head is from putting your head in your hat. They are as different as a Xerox machine and a copier.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded, “Life panels and death panels are the same thing. The Republicans are imitating us. We call on the President to make them stop imitating us. If they won’t stop imitating us, we will start imitating them. We’ll see how they like it!”

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2012 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Integrated Care Initiative

Michigan’s Medicaid system is involved in a project to better integrate the care provided to Medicaid recipients who also have Medicare coverage. These recipients are referred to as “dually-eligible.”

In an ideal world, it would not make any difference whether your care were covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance. If you had an ingrown toenail or a torn ACL, you would go to the same doctors and get the same effective, reasonable treatment. At least that would be my ideal world. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare” to the President’s enemies) opponents would define “ideal world” as one in which only those willing and able to pay would get care.

In this world, Medicare and Medicaid are different programs, with different sets of covered services, different financial costs to participants, and different sets of providers – try to find a dentist who accepts Medicaid. One glaring example is long-term care. Medicare covers up to 100 days of rehabilitation or skilled care after a three-day inpatient hospitalization. After that, long-term care in a nursing home is at the patient’s expense unless he or she has long-term care insurance or Medicaid. Basic nursing care is a service that is covered by Medicaid, but not by Medicare. Other services may be covered by both, but there will still be differences in how the services are authorized, provided, and paid.

Think about all the differences between private health insurance plans. What is covered, what the insured pays, and who provides the services can be greatly different depending on whether the patient has a Blue Cross or a Health Alliance Plan card.

The Integrated Care Initiative is an effort by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to integrate care for individuals who have both Medicare and Medicaid. The idea is to provide the full array of Medicare and Medicaid benefits through a single delivery system. CMS hopes that it will be possible to provide quality care to dually eligible beneficiaries, better care coordination and fewer administrative burdens. At least that is the “company line.”

The Initiative may be dismissed as the equivalent of bureaucratic self-abuse by critics who assume that anything the government does will be inefficient, pernicious, misguided, and dysfunctional. Medicare and Medicaid are, by definition, bureaucracies. So are private insurance companies, private telecommunications providers, automobile manufacturers, and banks. Barring a TEA Party sweep of the 2012 elections, Medicare and Medicaid will continue to serve millions of U.S. citizens. The Integrated Care Initiative is an effort at better serving those who are covered by both programs. The Initiative may fail to make any significant improvement, but the fact that CMS is attempting to do its job better should be recognized as a positive development.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2011 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Terry Jones Needs to be Committed

Terry Jones is coming to Dearborn, Michigan to celebrate Adolph Hitler’s Birthday on April 22, 2011, but his mental instability is indicated by the fact that he is two days off. Hitler was born on April 20, 1869.

Jones plans to demonstrate against Islam and is hoping for a large turnout of like-minded religious nutcases. Just as Timothy McVeigh hoped to incite racial conflict and blew up the Murrah Federal Building as a means to that end, Jones wants to provoke a religious civil war. He intends to foment a blood-soaked confrontation between militant Christians and fundamentalist Muslims. Not in my back yard! As a resident of Dearborn, I urge the police to bring Terry Jones before a probate judge and have him committed as mentally ill and a danger to himself and others as soon as he steps on Michigan soil.

On two occasions, Jones has incited violence in Afghanistan and other Islamic regions that resulted in more than 30 deaths. Under Michigan law, a “person requiring treatment” may be involuntarily committed to a mental institution. The definition of such a person includes an “individual who has mental illness, and who as a result of that mental illness can reasonably be expected within the near future to intentionally or unintentionally seriously physically injure himself, herself, or another individual, and who has engaged in an act or acts or made significant threats that are substantially supportive of the expectation.” M.C.L.A. 330.1401.

By his unrepentent, blatant insults to members of another religion, Jones clearly wants to cause serious physical injuries. He could exercise his freedom of speech in Florida, from his pulpit–but he is not satisfied with speaking his mind. He insists on taking his vitriol to a place where there is a concentration of Muslims because he wants to see blood shed. The Supreme Court has always recognized an exception to the First Amendment for speech intended to cause injury. The classic example concerns yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. There is no freedom of speech such that a person can incite a stampede or a riot with impunity.

I stated in a previous blog entry that Terry Jones is not stupid. That is not to say he is sane. Despite his bizarre interpretation of “Love your enemies,” it will be hard for many to accept a diagnosis of mental illness based on Jones’s militant Christian fundamentalism.

Most who adhere to a religion find it difficult to recognize or deal with pernicious religious extremism. Religion tends to emphasize ideals over practicalities. “Love they neighbor as thyself,” “Turn the other cheek,” and “Give yourself to [insert name of founder/prophet/savior]” sound inspiring from the pulpit, but they are damnably hard to live by. Religious aspirants always fall short of the ideal and generally carry around a cargo of guilt about it.

When Christians in sweatsuits and flipflops or jeans and Pumas look at a group of saffron-robed monks or tambourine-banging Krishnaites or black-coated Hasidim or burka-draped Sunnis, many are uncomfortable either approving such evident devotion to religion or criticizing the zealotry. They cannot endorse these alien faiths; but they also find it hard to condemn those who apparently possess such great religious fervor because they see themselves as falling short. In Terry Jones’s case there should be no hesitation. He is no more worthy of respect than David Koresh or Jim Jones.

Jones wants people to die, apparently welcoming his own martyrdom. His brand of Christianity hatched out of a malignant egg laid by a delusion in his diseased mind. It is irrational and violent. For his protection and the protection of society, he should be committed and treated. It is unlikely that his mental state will be improved, but on the loose he is a hazard like Mayhem in the Allstate commercials.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2011 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Terry and the Mullahs

Terry Jones, the self-styled “evangelical pastor” of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, provoked the deaths of 21 innocent United Nations personnel in Afghanistan by burning a copy of the Q’ran in Florida. My first thought was that he had again proven himself a world-class fool. His plan to burn 200 copies of the Muslim holy book on September 11, 2010 had provoked protests that killed at least four Afghans and others in Kashmir, Indonesia, and other countries. He should know that burning a Q’ran would result in more deaths. However, he is far from a fool. He is an evil genius who figured out how to become a serial killer without breaking any law!

The foolish ones are the Muslim leaders who allow themselves to be played by the likes of Terry Jones. Mullah Mohammed Shah Adeli, one of the mullahs in Mazar-i-Sharif who incited the riots, said “Burning the Koran is an insult to Islam, and those who committed it should be punished,” he said. This bright boy provoked his followers to kill 12 innocent Westerners, presumably on the principle that it is better to kill whoever is handy than to let an offense go unpunished.

It is hard to believe that the Q’ran contains no equivalent to one of the oldest legal principles known to the human race: “Let the punishment fit the crime.” Does the Q’ran actually supply a rationale for killing people who are not even from the United States in retaliation for an American fruitcake’s act of burning a copy of it? If there were any appropriate reaction to Terry Jones’s lame act, it would be to burn a bunch of Bibles. Similarly, instead of rioting and killing people in response to a Danish cartoonist’s offensive depiction of Mohammed, why did Muslims not respond with cartoons of Jesus approving violence committed by Christians? That would be more fitting.

Religion is, by definition, irrational, but killing Napalis and Europeans in Afghanistan over something done in the United States by a citizen of that country is wrongheaded by any measure. There is no defending Terry Jones. He is a deluded megalomaniac who should be on medication. Despite the culpability of Jones, the mullahs who sent their followers out into the street to kill and injure men and women who were in their country to help it to recover from decades of war are guilty of greater evil. A huge majority of Christian leaders are condemning Terry Jones’s acts. It is disappointing that Muslims in the United States are not more vocal in protesting the inhuman acts of their Afghan co-religionists.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2011 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Republican Hypocrisy over Shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

The shooting of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is a sad, but predictable, result of the type of vitriolic campaigning used by TEA Partiers and other right-wingnuts. When leaders accuse their opponents of being traitors and of desecrating the constitution, zealot supporters will interpret that as a green light for violence. There is only one way to interpret Sarah Palin’s use of rifle-scope crosshairs to indicate targeted Democrats on her campaign map: “Take ‘em out, Boys!” The Republican leadership set the stage for violence and has no legitimate claim to be anything but satisfied by the result.

Sarah Palin, John Boehner, John McCain, and other Republican leaders expressed “horror” over the shootings. I do not for a minute believe that they were anything but gleeful. They should keep their damned mouths shut.

I remember President Reagan claiming that he was “appalled” at the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982. His expression was as hypocritical as Palin’s, Boehner’s and McCain’s. Those massacres were carried out by Reagan’s ally, Ariel Sharon. Neither Reagan nor his administration lifted a finger to halt the massacres, punish the perpetrators, or assist the survivors.

There is no excuse for this kind of blatant duplicity. Right-wingers accuse anyone to the left of Sean Hannity of being a traitor and a Commie who is a danger to America. They claim that President Obama is a closet Muslim who was not born on U.S. soil and moan that the health reform act will destroy the country. Since we who are in favor of health care for all are evil people who are trying to wreck the country, is it any wonder that dedicated disciples of Palin and Boehner would decide that assassinating us is doing God’s work?

The TEA Party and Republican leadership should at least have the integrity to express their honest feelings about the shootings in Tucson. They are pleased and owe it to the country to admit it.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2011 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

I like Nancy and Barack, So Shoot Me!

To TEA Partiers and Republicans, Liberals are not people who have a different opinion about what is best for the country. We are traitors. When they say “Pelosi” or “Obama” it is with the venom and disgust they would use if they said “Hitler” or “Stalin.”

Conservatives have long claimed the patriotic high ground. I am old enough to remember “America–Love It or Leave It” bumper stickers. Anyone who disagreed with the war in Southeast Asia was a traitor and deserved to be shot like the Kent State Four.

Whether in war or peace, a citizen is obligated to express honestly held opinions. However, it is understandable that a fervent defender of a country’s military posture would see citizens who oppose the war as hurting the country. What is indefensible is to accuse opponents in purely political issues of betraying their nation. Supporting health care reform or an economic stimulus bill is not the same as selling military secrets to a national enemy.

No one has any moral justification for the kind of vile accusations and insults hurled at the Democratic leadership in the last election. The New Yorker cover, “The Politics of Fear,” July 21, 2008, was a harbinger of the ridiculous claims made in the 2010 mid-term elections. Appallingly, it was no exaggeration.

Sen. Harry Reid does not evoke the same hatred as Speaker Pelosi or Pres. Obama. A cynic might suggest that it is because the American Right is sexist and racist. Does an uppity woman or person of color offend them more than a white male adversary? Are the Speaker and the President so profoundly disrespected only on political grounds?

According to TEA Partiers, I am the vilest of quislings and deserve to be shot like a rabid dog. Their ugly rhetoric is no way to conduct healthy political discourse. It is time for the right wing to lay aside the insults and work for the common good.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2010 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Poor, Suffering Las Vegas

Some people are determined to take anything President Obama says the wrong way. The President told a New Hampshire town hall meeting: “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices and It’s time your government did the same.” Nevada and Las Vegas officials pitched a royal bitch about this remark.

“How dare he insult any American city,” said Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons. “It’s absolutely inappropriate that once again he has singled out Nevada. It’s critical to the recovery of our economy that a President, who’s words are taken so seriously tone down his words.” What is Gibbons’s problem? Las Vegas is the epitome of conspicuous consumption and it cultivates the image of being a place to throw away money. In Las Vegas, everything costs four times what it would cost in any normal city and the taxi drivers shake down tourists for every buck they can take them for, driving repeatedly around the same block and in general taking the longest possible route to get anywhere. The hotels are outrageously expensive, transportation is ruinous, and a family of four could buy a week’s groceries for the cost of dinner for two in the average Las Vegas restaurant. The only objective on The Strip is to fleece tourists and send them home broke.

It’s not an insult to speak the truth and the truth is that Las Vegas is where you go to waste money. Protesting the President’s assertion that people shouldn’t go to Las Vegas if they have a constructive use for their money is like complaining about the statement that people shouldn’t go to Miami if they want to see snow (meaning frozen precipitation, not cocaine). Those Nevadans need to get their heads on straight. If Las Vegas wants to be known as an economical vacation spot, it will have to do a lot more than mute politicians.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2010 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Thank You, Congress and Mr. President

The government has done something really great for consumers who are not able to pay off their credit cards every month–meaning most of us. Credit card companies will still have us by the short hairs, but some of the worst rules have been outlawed by Congress and the President, effective February 13, 2010. Here is a short list of changes:

>>The interest rate can no longer be raised for being a few days late. The company can still hit you with a late payment fee, but they cannot raise the interest rate. One credit card company raised the interest rate on my card from 9.99% to 23.99% for a partial payment when the company changed the minim payment. I know, I should have flyspecked the bill before I paid it, so it was my fault. However, after the new law goes into effect, the interest rate on an existing balance can only be raised if the minimum payment is not made within 60 days of the due date.

>>One of the most important reforms is the requirement that when you pay over the minimum, the excess must be applied against the balance with the highest–not lowest–interest rate. Now, if you have a promotional rate on part of your balance, you can pay off higher-rate balances first.

>>No penalties for accidentally exceeding the credit limit. Transactions that exceed the credit limit must be declined unless the consumer authorizes the transaction knowing that it puts the account over the limit.

Credit card companies can still raise the interest rate for future transactions, so making payments late or going over the credit limit may have negative consequences. It is only existing balances that are protected.

These are only a few of the more important changes. For more information, do an Internet search for the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2009 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Immigration Reform: Amnesthetize the Kids

Policy-makers, legislators, and pundits–not to mention Right-Wing pinheads–have been kvetching about immigration reform for as long as I can remember. It is time to do something constructive, instead of moaning about how bad the problem is.

For decades, we have cultivated a vigorous underground economy employing low-wage undocumented workers and paying them under the table. While we look the other way as unscrupulous employers bait the trap, we screech about how undocumented immigrants are breaking the law. It is highly hypocritical to punish the peons while the meat-packers, restaurants, and department stores that lure them here barely get a tap on the wrist when they are caught. Our immigration “policy” is to police the borders more vigorously and build a fence.

Exclusion does not work for drugs and it does not work for undocumented immigrants, but we keep doing the same things over and over and wondering why we get the same results over and over. It is time to get tough on employers who flout the law and it is time to adopt some reasonable amnesty policies.

Some immigrants knowingly break the law by entering the country illegally. But we have not been consistent. We punish immigrants from some countries, but we have welcomed them from others. For years, anyone from Cuba who washed up on our shore was welcomed because he or she came from an undemocratic hellhole, but anyone from Haiti was sent back to that undemocratic hellhole. Where is the justice in that? Furthermore, entering the country illegally is not the same as killing a party store cashier or whacking a snitch.

Amnesties are problematic for two reasons: They seem to reward criminal behavior and they encourage others to enter the country illegally. However, there is one group of illegal residents whom we could easily amnesthetize without these disadvantages–high school graduates who entered this country at an early age.

There are many illegal residents who were brought here at an early age and have progressed through our schools successfully. Despite having a high school diploma, or even a college degree, they are not permitted to seek employment legally. This is a huge waste of resources.

These residents are not law-breakers and usually have no ties to the countries from which they were brought. Most of them are fluent in both spoken and written American. They would be excellent workers and citizens. Foreign nationals who entered the country at an early age, who have no criminal history, and who have achieved a high school education should be offered at least a work permit, if not citizenship. That would be a fair policy and it would benefit all concerned. Stop punishing the innocent. Give them status in the country they call home. Amnesthetize the kids.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2009 John B. Payne, Attorney