(Business Insider) The Senate narrowly voted Tuesday to open debate on the Republican health care overhaul on Tuesday, kicking off a furious voting process after tumultuous arguments among the GOP.
A procedural vote to begin debate on the House’s health care bill passed, 51-50, as Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote. It came amid the dramatic return of Sen. John McCain, who cast a crucial vote in favor of the legislation a week after announcing he had brain cancer.
Even with the crucial step, it is unclear if Republicans will have the votes to eventually repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the law referred to by many as Obamacare.
Every Democrat voted against the motion Tuesday, with Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski defecting from GOP leadership by voting no. Leadership could not have afforded another GOP defection.
Several Republican members who were on the fence regarding the motion decided to vote for the measure after significant pressure from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House. Sen. Ron Johnson came to the floor and talked privately with McConnell before finally casting a “yes” vote Tuesday.
The Senate will now begin 20 hours of debate on the healthcare bill, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., returns to the U.S. Senate accompanied by his wife, Cindy, on July 25, 2017, in Washington. (Photo:Win McNamee/Getty Images)
To get enough Republican senators onboard with the motion to proceed, McConnell likely promised to bring up multiple versions of amendments for a vote, including the repeal-only Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA) and the repeal-and-replace Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).
GOP members say McConnell is likely assuming both of those measures will fail and then begin a “skinny repeal” process — a series of amendments that would repeal certain parts of Obamacare.
If those are able to pass in the shell of the House bill, Republicans from both sides of Congress would come together on a conference committee to draft a compromise.
President Donald Trump applauded the passage of the motion in a statement.
“I applaud the Senate for taking a giant step to end the Obamacare nightmare,” Trump said. “As this vote shows, inaction is not an option, and now the legislative process can move forward as intended to produce a bill that lowers costs and increases options for all Americans. The Senate must now pass a bill and get it to my desk so we can finally end the Obamacare disaster once and for all.”
Here’s a rundown of what will happen from here:
20 hours of debate — in legislative time — will begin, split equally between Democrats and Republicans.
The first amendment to be voted on is likely to be the ORRA to satisfy conservative hold-out Rand Paul and other conservatives. This plan is likely to be shot down by moderates.
The first amendment to be offered procedurally — but the second to be voted on, the news website Axios reported — would be the BCRA, which was last updated on Thursday. Again, Republicans can afford only two defections.
According to reports, there is an agreement between Sen. Rob Portman, a more moderate holdout, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a conservative, on an amendment that would keep the structure of the BCRA but allow insurers to sell non-Obamacare-compliant policies and throw in $100 billion to the state stabilization fund. But since that would require 60 votes to pass, and it has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, it is almost certainly doomed, since there are only 52 Republicans in the Senate.
There could then be a series of amendments to the House bill, including those from Democrats. Additionally, other health care legislation could be slotted in for a vote.
Finally, McConnell will try to push the Senate to pass a bundle of smaller amendments focused on repealing aspects of Obamacare like the individual mandate and medical-device tax. After this, the House and the Senate would flesh out a full replacement bill in a conference committee.
By LeNora Millen 07-25-17
Medicare Takes Aim at Medical Identity Theft: Protecting Seniors From Fraud
Criminals are increasingly targeting people age 65 or older for personal identity theft. In 2014 alone, there were 2.6 million such incidents among seniors, according to the Department of Justice.
A growing offshoot of identity theft is healthcare fraud, which can result when someone unlawfully uses another person’s Medicare number. Medical identity theft can lead to inaccuracies in medical records, which in turn can result in delayed care, denied services and costly false claims.
That’s why Medicare works with the Department of Justice, taking aim squarely at would-be thieves. In the largest law enforcement action against criminals fraudulently targeting the Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare programs, 412 people around the country, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, were charged in 2017 with bilking U.S. taxpayers out of $1.3 billion.
New Medicare Card for 2018. (Video Courtesy of YouTube)
The next big fraud-fighting push is well underway — and its focus is protecting the personal information of senior citizens by removing their Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.
People with Medicare don’t need to take any action to get a new Medicare card. Beginning in April 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will mail out newly designed Medicare cards to the 58 million Americans with Medicare. The cards will have a new number that will be unique for each card recipient. This will help protect personal identity and prevent fraud because identity thieves can’t bill Medicare without a valid Medicare number. To help with a seamless transition to the new cards, providers will be able to use secure lookup tools that will support quick access to the new card numbers when needed.
Healthcare fraud drives up costs for everyone, but healthcare consumers can be an effective first line of defense against fraud. Follow these tips to help protect yourself:
- Treat your Medicare number like a credit card.
- When the new card comes in the mail next year, destroy your old card and make sure you bring your new one to your doctors’ appointments.
- Be suspicious of anyone offering early bird discounts, limited time offers or encouraging you to act now for the best deal. That’s an indicator of potential fraud because Medicare plans are forbidden from offering incentives.
- Be skeptical of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages or any offer that sounds too good to be true.
- Only give your Medicare number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
- Report suspected instances of fraud.
- Check your Medicare statements to make sure the charges are accurate.
- Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by telephone, email or approaches you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance. Medicare will never contact you uninvited and request your Medicare number or other personal information.
- Don’t let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.
- Don’t allow anyone, except your doctor or other Medicare providers, to review your medical records or recommend services.
- Don’t let anyone persuade you to see a doctor for care or services you don’t need.
- Don’t accept medical supplies from a door-to-door salesman.
Learn more about how you can fight Medicare fraud at Medicare.gov/fraud, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). You can also visit a local SHIP counselor, who can provide free, one-on-one, non-biased Medicare assistance.
With a common sense approach to protecting health information, senior citizens can be effective partners in fighting Medicare fraud.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Two Million Children Could Lose “CHIP” Coverage Next Month
Phillip Verhoef speaks at a rally Dec. 14, 2017, hosted by University of Chicago medical students to call on Congress to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. | Scott Olson/Getty Images
Nearly 2 million children will lose health coverage starting next month if Congress doesn’t renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by Friday, a new report projects.
Already, state CHIP administrators say, parents are panicking and permanent damage has been done to the program, set up to take care of kids who don’t have health insurance through other programs.
CHIP covers 9 million children across the country. Congress failed to authorize funding in September, and some states have already started warning parents to get their last medical visits in while money lasts.
“Our phones are ringing off the wall,” said Cathy Caldwell, director of the Alabama Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance.
“We have panicked families wondering what in the world they have as options. So it is just very, very stressful here in Alabama,” Caldwell told reporters in a telephone briefing.
The crisis puzzles health policy experts, doctors and politicians, who say CHIP is a universally popular program that’s never been made into a political pawn before.
Earlier Wednesday, Democrats in Congress urged their GOP colleagues who control both the House and Senate to act by Friday. “This is the ultimate bad Christmas carol story,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said at a news conference where politicians held lumps of coal.
CHIP has bipartisan support, but Republicans have been focused on passing a tax reform bill — their first legislative victory for 2017.
“Congress must get CHIP done before they leave for the holidays,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Research Center, which issued the latest report.
“Families need the peace of mind that their child’s coverage will not disappear as the new year begins.”
The report finds that 20 states will run short of money in the first quarter of 2018.
“There’s no good options here.” “Never before has congress let CHIP funding lapse for this long a period of time,” Alker said.
The continuing resolution that Congress passed earlier this month shifts around $1.24 billion in CHIP funds so that the states running out the fastest get some 2017 money. But that’s at the expense of states that were not running out as quickly.
“In essence, the patch robs Peter to pay Paul,” the report reads.
“The remaining 31 states will see their share of redistribution funds reduced, and thus the timeline by which they will run out of money is accelerated. Despite the additional funds, the 20 ‘winner’ states will only have sufficient funds to operate their programs through January,” it adds.
“All of them will come up short for February.”
Linda Nablo, chief deputy director of Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services, said her state has even less money than she thought just weeks ago.
“There’s no good options here,” Nablo said.
Caldwell said Alabama is already making contingency plans.
If Congress provides funding by Friday, the state will not have to freeze its programs.
“If it happens after Feb. 1, then we’re looking at rebuilding the program,” Caldwell said.
“Even what’s happened so far, I believe, will cause irreparable damage to the CHIP program. It’s already negatively affecting our credibility.”
The last time Alabama froze enrollment into CHIP, some families stayed away for a decade after funding was restored, she said.
“It will take us years and years to overcome it,” Caldwell said. “But by far the worst is what’s going to happen to the children who lose coverage.”
Pediatricians say when kids don’t have health insurance, their parents skip needed medical care.
“For some conditions, that can be deadly,” said Dr. Sam Bartle, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Virginia Commonwealth University/VCU Health System and president of the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
NBC News and the American Academy of Pediatrics contributed to this report.
#LeNora Millen 12-21-17
Rev. Jesse Jackson discloses Parkinson’s disease diagnosis
U.S. civil rights leader the Reverend Jesse Jackson disclosed Friday he has Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological condition that affects body movement.
In a letter to supporters, the 76-year-old civil rights icon said family and friends noticed a change in him about three years ago and he could no longer ignore symptoms.
He says the diagnosis isn’t a sign to stop working but a “signal” to make “lifestyle changes” to slow progression of the chronic neurological disorder that causes movement difficulties.
“Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it,” he said. “For me, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.”
Jackson has been a leader of the U.S. civil rights movement since the mid-1960s and was with Martin Luther King when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.
He twice sought the Democratic presidential nomination and has acted as an emissary to secure the release of Americans held abroad.
Parkinson’s disease occurs when certain nerve cells break down and reduce the amount of the chemical, dopamine, that sends signals to the part of the brain that controls movement, according to Webmd.com. But the disease progresses slowly, and treatments can slow it down even more, it said.
Jackson said he planned to advocate to find a cure for the disease, which he said “bested my father,” strikes 60,000 Americans a year and afflicts 7 to 10 million people worldwide. He also said he is writing his memoir.
“I will continue to try to instill hope in the hopeless, expand our democracy to the disenfranchised and free innocent prisoners around the world,” he said.
Read the letter below:
Dear Friends and Supporters,
On July 17, 1960, I was arrested, along with seven other college students, for advocating for the right to use a public library in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. I remember it like it was yesterday, for that day changed my life forever. From that experience, I lost my fear of being jailed for a righteous cause. I went on to meet Dr. King and dedicate my heart and soul to the fight for justice, equality, and equal access. In the tradition of the Apostle Paul, I have offered myself – my mind, body and soul – as a living sacrifice.
Throughout my career of service, God has kept me in the embrace of his loving arms, and protected me and my family from dangers, seen and unseen. Now in the latter years of my life, at 76 years old, I find it increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks, and getting around is more of a challenge. My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago. For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor. But as my daily physical struggles intensified I could no longer ignore the symptoms, so I acquiesced.
After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father.
Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it. For me, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.
I am far from alone. God continues to give me new opportunities to serve. This diagnosis is personal but it is more than that. It is an opportunity for me to use my voice to help in finding a cure for a disease that afflicts 7 to 10 million worldwide. Some 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year.
I will continue to try to instill hope in the hopeless, expand our democracy to the disenfranchised and free innocent prisoners around the world. I’m also spending some time working on my memoir so I can share with others the lessons I have learned in my life of public service. I steadfastly affirm that I would rather wear out than rust out.
I want to thank my family and friends who continue to care for me and support me. I will need your prayers and graceful understanding as I undertake this new challenge. As we continue in the struggle for human rights, remember that God will see us through, even in our midnight moments.
KEEP HOPE ALIVE!
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
By LeNora Millen 11-17-17
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