Missouri has the third highest murder rate in the country.
"Hello? 911? I would like to report someone exercising their constitutional right to abortion? Yes, she's walking into the very last abortion clinic in the state right now. Yes, I suppose she could be going in for an STI screening or birth control or an ob-gyn appointment, but it could be an abortion, so I'd like you to check up on that and arrest her if need be!"
Abortion, for the time being, is still legal everywhere in the United States of America. But in states like Missouri, they're partying like Roe v. Wade has already been overturned. They're passing laws banning abortion after eight weeks, forcing patients to get medically unnecessary and invasive pelvic exams before having an abortion, and trying to shut down the state's last remaining abortion clinic by tracking the menstrual cycles of patients there.
And when the state legislature begins its 2020 session, they will have a fun new "fetal personhood" bill waiting for them.
(It is telling them to go fuck themselves, all to 'save' $20 million a year.)
The Trump administration is working on new rules for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program that appear to be designed -- you might want to sit down for this -- to kick people out of the program. (SSDI has long been a target of rightwing assholes who are certain that too many people qualify, and Trump is nothing if not a sloppy gift to rightwing assholes.) HuffPo reviews the draft rules, which were published in November. The public comment period is open until January 17, after which the administration will do as it pleases and then get sued.
As things stand, people who make it through the Sisyphean rigors of actually qualifying for SSDI already have to demonstrate every few years that they're still disabled. The new rules would add one more layer of review for certain recipients by adding a new category of disability classification that would require more frequent re-qualification than under the current system. The goal seems to be to eject people from the system by tossing more bureaucracy at them, all in the name of keeping SSDI "accountable."
And if disabled people end up without the help they need, that's a bummer, but if they didn't get through the paperwork process they must have been faking, right? It's precisely the same logic as red states' hard-on to add work requirements for people on Medicaid. The stated goal is reducing "fraud," but there's very little fraud. But if a lot fewer people get benefits, that's a win, and proof there were too many fraudulent takers living the high life off the hard-working taxpayer.
You know, that seems like a symptom of some kind.
Utah came up with a great idea to save big money on prescription drugs: Fly public employees who need the most expensive meds to Mexico, where they can purchase the same drugs they'd get in US America for about half what they cost here. And as an incentive, the program, called "RX Tourism," pays airfare for the employee and one family member, plus $500 per trip to get a 90-day supply of meds. The savings in costs to the state insurance plan more than cover the cost of the travel and the $500 cash payouts. It's such a big savings for some employers that there's an entire niche industry built around arranging trips for Americans to purchase drugs at Mexican hospitals. The Salt Lake Tribune ran a jaw-dropping story on the arrangement Sunday.
You know, maybe what we laughingly call our healthcare "system" is completely fucked up if those are the lengths employers and states are going to so they can cover pricey prescription drugs. But at least it's not socialism!
GOP Lawmakers' New Year's Resolution: Ban Abortion Today, Ban Abortion Tomorrow, Ban Abortion Forever
Couldn't they just sign up for a yoga class?
It's the New Year, which means for at least a week people will be talking about all the things they want to do in the New Year. Maybe they want to Marie Kondo their apartments, maybe they want to take up skydiving, maybe they want to be healthier or drink less or smoke less or do some other kind of personal self-improvement type thing.
Eighty percent of Republicans in Congress and the Senate, however, along with two asshole Democrats -- Dan Lipinski (IL) and Collin Peterson (MN) -- have resolved to take away everyone else's reproductive rights.
More than 200 of them, including 39 Senators, have signed an amicus curie (friend of the court) brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to ban abortion. Or, rather, ban safe abortions for poor people, as abortions will always happen one way or another and the rich will always be able to fly out to where abortions are legal and have one safely there. They also wish to overturn Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the case that upheld the constitutional right to abortion and found that a state cannot create an "undue burden" on a "large fraction" of those seeking an abortion.
And we thought Hillary Clinton had a bodycount.
Crusading anti-corruption crusader and California congressional candidate Cenk Uygur offered his two cents on the scandal involving former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who pardoned a bunch of really awful people on his way out the door, including a convicted murderer whose family threw a fundraiser for Bevin. Cenk wants us to consider the Big Picture, which is that while Bevin appears to have corruptly pardoned a killer and some guys convicted of raping children, that's nothing compared to the corruption that led Nancy Pelosi to personally murder tens of thousands of Americans. Here are his Galaxy Brain tweetdroppings:
That's pretty awful of Nancy Pelosi to be so very corrupt! However, we're not sure we agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Cenk.
I'm out of network? You're out of network! THIS WHOLE COURT IS OUT OF NETWORK!
National Public Radio brings us one hell of a fine story today about a ridiculous medical bill for a routine doctor's visit. In October, a nice lady in Brooklyn, Alexa Kasdan, was getting ready for a trip, but she had a cold that had lingered for over a week. She didn't want to go ahead with the vacation if she had strep throat or something awful, so she went to see her doctor, just in case. Her primary care doc, Roya Fathollahi, gave her a throat swab and took some blood, and sent her home with a prescription, and all was well. Kasdan felt better, went on her trip, and that's the end of our story because we figured you could use some nice news for a change where everything worked out fine, the end.
What, you're still reading? Oh, yeah, you probably read the headline. Although sometimes we wonder about some of you and you know who you are.
About which, the judges or the Obamacare? Yes.
Going into the holiday season, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided to give Americans the gift of panic attacks about losing their health insurance.
Texas v. United States is a lawsuit filed by a bunch of shitbag Republican attorneys general, seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act and take health insurance away from millions of Americans. And this week, they got just a little bit closer to their goal.
Wonderful rally, President Goodbrain.
Donald Trump went to Battle Creek, Michigan, Wednesday night, holding one of his great big slob Nuremberg rallies while the House voted to impeach him. He used the occasion to rant and ramble for two hours, making it the longest rally he's held since taking office. It was a fine party, with Trump treating the impeachment as a joke that will work out just great for him, and mocking Democrats as the worst humans possible. It was a lot like the actual impeachment "debate" in the House that way.
Oh yes, and the rally also celebrated the fact that Americans are now allowed to say "Merry Christmas" again, which until 2017 they could not, so Donald Trump truly is a Christmas Miracle. The holiday trees at the venue were even topped with red MAGA hats instead of stars of angels, because triggering the libs is the Reason for the Season. Trump also yelled about toilets and light bulbs, as one does at this festive time of year.
And yes, it appears Nancy Pelosi let him.
One of the more awful current problems with US America's fucked up mishmash of healthcare systems -- beyond the fact that it leaves nearly 28 million Americans without any health coverage at all -- is the phenomenon of "surprise medical billing," which can occur when someone with insurance uses services they think would be covered, but then later gets a big whopping bill for a doctor or lab that assisted -- and was out of network for their insurance. It's an especially serious problem when people go to the emergency room, but it can also happen when someone has surgery: They might make sure the hospital and surgeon are in-network, but then they get a huge bill because the anesthesiologist or some other staff is out of network, and there's nothing they can do to ensure an in-network anesthesiologist in the first place.
The House and Senate, in one of those rare moments where members work together to address a serious issue, managed to actually come up with a bipartisan bill to end surprise billing. The compromise was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Health Committee, and it looked likely to be included in the big must-pass spending package needed to keep the government running. It left both hospitals and insurers grumpy, which is what compromises do. Even the White House had endorsed the proposal.
But then House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, a Democrat of Massachusetts, threw everything into confusion by putting forward an alternate bill that would preserve doctors' ability to soak patients for those unexpected out-of network services. And wouldn't you know it, Neal has received hefty campaign donations from a private equity group that would prefer not to see hospitals make smaller profits.
God damn it, Richie. This is what the angry kids are talking about when they call Democrats "corporatists" or worse. In this case, they couldn't be more right.
Oh he DIDN'T say we could eat healthcare cake? Guess we shouldn't believe everything we read on Twitter.
So here's a weird trendlet. The bullshit debate talking points about how much Americans supposedly loooove their private health insurance (and would be very very sad if Medicare for All replaced it) is getting enough traction that it's infecting the way some Democratic candidates frame their healthcare proposals. Elizabeth Warren has lately been playing up her plan to transition to Medicare for All as offering the "choice" to buy in to M4A before full single-payer is rolled out. And in an interview Friday with the Washington Post's Robert Costa, Pete Buttigieg rather awkwardly invoked free-market rhetoric, sounding like a regular Ronnie Reagan, albeit also in the context of a transition to M4A via the option to buy in to Medicare.
Instead of just assuming that sitting here in Washington we're going to know what the right plan is for everybody or even what the right timeline is for everybody to come over, we're going to let people figure it out for themselves. I trust you to figure out your own health care, especially when we create these options.
It didn't help that, on Twitter at least, Buttigieg's remarks got condensed to the snippet "I trust you to figure out your own health care," which launched any number of threads from people pointing out that America's clusterfuck of healthcare "systems" is difficult even for physicians to figure out, let alone the average person. Again, Buttigieg wasn't advocating throwing people to the tender mercies of the free market (his public option would automatically enroll those who are uninsured, with an opt-out). That out of context quote may haunt him forever, like the time Nancy Pelosi never said we'd have to pass Obamacare to find out what's in it.
My point here is that all this talk of "choice" actually buys into a talking point that comes straight from the health insurance industry, and for fucks sake could Democrats please be smarter than to let those vultures frame the debate, please?
Fix it? Why would they want to fix it?
[Updated with new development; see end of article.] Yesterday was the open enrollment deadline for people to sign up for plans on the Obamacare exchanges for 2020. You might think the Department of Health and Human Services would take all the steps necessary to make sure Healthcare.gov, the signup site, could handle all the extra traffic expected on the final day of open enrollment -- and if not, to make damn sure anyone having problems could get signed up. Hahaha, if you expect that, you have not been paying attention! On Sunday afternoon, as traffic got heavier, this is what greeted people trying to sign up for insurance:
A spokesperson for HHS's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is in charge of running the website and helping Donald Trump dismantle Obamacare with plausible deniability, told The Hill that the site "remains open for business." Just not actually signing anyone up while it was all glitchy, you see. Besides, said the spokesperson, anyone who left a message at the phone number shown on the error screen would hear back from CMS and get their insurance. The spokesperson also said the site has a friendly "waiting room" function that handles heavy traffic, although they also said it would only affect a "portion of customers." But that message up there is no "waiting room," it's just a note on the front door saying "Good luck, try leaving a message."
Mia McLeod is so great you guys.
It is not often that we can get too excited about any legislation coming out of South Carolina. Especially if we are talking about laws concerning abortion. And yet, state Sen. Mia McLeod has come out with what I believe is the actual greatest bill of all time, in the history of the world — The Pro-Birth Accountablity Act.
As you may know, legislators in South Carolina have been pushing for a bill that would outlaw abortion after six weeks (before many people even know they are pregnant), with no rape and incest exceptions. They simply cannot wait to give rapists a two-for-one deal on exerting power over their victims.
In response to this, Sen. McLeod pre-filed a bill on Wednesday proposing they put their money where their mouths are and pay the people they plan to force to give birth against their will.
It's so good. It's just so good.
PSA: Don't Take Fish Antibiotics Unless You Are A Fish. In Which Case You Are Probably Not Reading This.
Not afraid to be servicey!
You know, you learn something new every day. Yesterday, I learned that Americans are taking fish antibiotics because they cannot afford antibiotics for humans.
Now, look. I know people have their issues with Bernie Sanders. But I would hope that we could all agree that people taking fish antibiotics is objectively bad, and for multiple reasons.
They're not about to let Big Room Scheduling push them around.
At the New Jersey statehouse Thursday, hundreds of angry anti-vaxxers packed into a hearing room to demand their voices be heard. It was the wrong hearing room, but they demanded to be heard anyway, because this is America.
The crowd wanted to express their opposition to a bill that would eliminate the state's religious exemption for vaccine requirements, but they somehow ended up in a room where a completely unrelated hearing for New Jersey Transit was scheduled. And no, they weren't going anywhere -- just like ambulances in Fort Lee.
Gosh, you mean to say that even when they were informed of the facts and advised that if they wanted to achieve their aims, they should literally change where they stood, they refused to listen? Seems like that's very on-brand. Good for them, refusing to be told how to live their lives by a bunch of so-called "experts" and "authorities."
That's pretty much all a transvaginal ultrasound is.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled to let Kentucky's transvaginal ultrasound law stand. This means that anyone who wants an abortion in one of Kentucky's three remaining abortion clinics has to let a doctor shove a wand up their vaginas in order to show them an ultrasound of their fetus, in hopes that this will convince them not to have an abortion. This should be especially thrilling for recently traumatized rape victims.
Without any sort of dissent at all, the Court upheld the decision of the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals, that the law did not violate the First Amendment rights of doctors, thereby allowing the law to go into effect:
"As a First Amendment matter, there is nothing suspect with a State's requiring a doctor, before performing an abortion, to make truthful, non-misleading factual disclosures, relevant to informed consent, even if those disclosures relate to unborn life and have the effect of persuading the patient not to have an abortion," the appeals court held in its ruling.
Ok, but what about the rights of patients to say what sort of medical procedures they want performed on them? Shouldn't that be a consideration? I guess not!
Six grand for that necklace? REALLY?
As much as we all love to hate the Trump administration from afar, it's always nice to know that these assholes hate each other even more up close and in person. Medicare and Medicaid head Seema Verma, a cartoon villain who wears coats made of puppies (probably), has been gleefully dismantling Obamacare and trying to steal healthcare from poor people. But what do her coworkers think of her?
Turns out they detest her, too! Politico and Axios have reported for weeks that Verma and her boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, spend half their time trying to kick the shit out of each other, forcing Mike Pence, their capo from back in Indiana, to pull them apart keening MOTHER WOULD NOT APPROVE, over and over! (Probably.) And we ain't mad about it! Particularly since Verma and Azar seem to be canceling each other out, each sticking a shiv in the other's signature plan just before it lands on Trump's desk. Also, there's the leaking. So, so much leaking.
Now we're not saying that Alex Azar's allies fed Politico a story that makes Verma look like Marie Antoinette tucking into a cake made from human babies. But we're not NOT saying it either. Here's how Politico described the reimbursement claim submitted by Verma after her luggage was stolen in San Francisco in August 2018:
©2018 by Commie Girl Industries, Inc