Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Week Twenty-Eight

National Scene 8/5 – 8/11/2009

By Linnie Frank Bailey

American Hispanics of various origins—from Mexico, Central America, South America, Puerto Rico, and Cuba—celebrated the swearing-in of Bronx-native Sonia Sotomayor as the 111th Supreme Court Justice. Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Sotomayor on August 8, 2009, as her Puerto Rico-born mother, an 82-year-old former nurse, held the Bible.

Also, this week—in a significant sign that the recession may be easing, and that the Administration’s economic efforts are working, the unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in fifteen months.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just the Facts, Please!

To counter false arguments on health care reform that are being circulated around the country by opponents, the Administration launched a ‘Reality Check’ initiative to dispel what officials deem as “inaccurate statements” being put forth by critics. The responses include a “Reality Check Website” -- http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck/ that addresses oft-repeated issues including:

Myth – “Health care will be rationed under Obama’s plan for health reform. I won’t be able to get certain tests or procedures.”

Reality – “First, there is widespread rationing in today’s system. Right now, decisions about what doctor you can see and what treatment you can receive are made by insurance companies, which routinely deny coverage because of cost or the insurance company rules. Health reform will do away with many of those rules that result in rationing today.

Health Insurance Reform will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage because you have a pre-existing condition; prevent them for canceling coverage because you get sick; ban annual and lifetime limits on coverage, which often force people to pay huge sums out of pocket if they develop a serious illness; and prevent discrimination based on gender. With health insurance reform, we will also put treatment decisions back into the hands of doctors in consultation with their patients.”

Myth – “Health reform is going to put more burdens on federal and state governments because we will be covering more people without insurance.”

Reality – “American families with insurance pay a hidden tax of roughly $1000 for the cost of caring for people without insurance. As more Americans become insured, that hidden tax will begin to disappear. In addition, covering everyone will put downward pressure on costs. Bringing younger, healthier people into the system will spread the risk. As more Americans become covered, insurance companies will compete for their business. That will begin to lower costs. And health insurance reform will create stability and security for everyone. If you lose or change jobs you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you will always be able to find an affordable health insurance option for your family.”

Myth – “Why would health reform be good for seniors and what’s up with counseling for end of life care?

Reality – “If we don’t begin to rein in escalating health care costs, Medicare will be threatened over the long-run. Health reform will benefit seniors in many ways:

· We are committed to shrinking the donut hole in Medicare Part D that has forced so many seniors—more than 4 million every year—to pay exorbitant costs out of pocket or go without the drugs they need.

· For those of you who retire between the ages of 55 and 64, health reform will provide financial assistance to employer health plans that cover early retirees, bringing down health costs and premiums by as much as $1,200 per family per year for some plans.

· We want to strengthen preventive care under Medicare—no co-payments for checkups and wellness visits. Preventive care is especially important for seniors, because it will increase the chance that your doctor can catch an illness in its early stages.

· Most importantly, by reducing waste and improving the efficiency of Medicare, the Administration will strengthen the program to be sure it is always there for you and the generations to come. As you know, the Medicare Trust fund is projected to run out of money in about 8 years. Health insurance reform would extend the life of the fund for additional years—through at least 2022—and give it greater stability and security.

· [The “end-of-life”] provision, which has been supported by the AARP, would allow senior citizens access to a professional medical counselor who will provide them with any information they might need about preparing a living will, providing medical power of attorney, and—if they are seeking this kind of advice—end of life decisions. These counseling sessions are not mandatory; they are simply made available to those who wish to use the service because they are unable to receive the information from another source. This means that if a senior is seeking such advice and guidance, Medicare would cover it. This measure would allow Medicare to compensate doctors for discussing with their patients the most difficult care choices—those that happen at the end of life. It would actually empower individuals to make the best decisions for themselves and their families, and better ensure that their wishes will be followed.”

Obama and Administration officials will be traveling the country with town halls to address health care reform. For more information on the Administration’s plan, visit the website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck/faq

Release of American Journalists from North Korea

President Obama thanked former President Bill Clinton for his help in securing the release of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling whom had been detained in North Korea since March. The women were reunited with their families at the Burbank Airport. President Obama contacted the women and their families and called the reunion a “source of happiness not only for the families but for the entire country.”

The President lauded both President Clinton and former Vice President Gore (the women worked for Gore’s organization) for their tireless efforts to secure the release of the women saying, “All Americans should be grateful to both former President Clinton and Vice President Gore for their extraordinary work.”

Town Hall in Elkhart, Indiana

The President traveled to Elkhart County, Indiana, an area once known as the “RV Capital of the World” which has been hit hard by the recession. Elkhart has experienced a 10% increase in unemployment over the last year. The President chose a RV plant—Monaco RV Manufacturing, to conduct a town hall meeting. He restated his commitment to moving the economy forward saying, “If we hope to lead this century like we did the last century, we have to create the conditions and the opportunities for places like Elkhart to succeed.”

The President announced a Recovery Act program to provide a $2.4 billion investment in 48 new advanced battery and electric drive projects, stating the investment for hybrid and electric drive vehicles will “create of tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs that are much needed in places like Elkhart.”

Addressing critics who want to “defend the status quo,” Obama said, “There are those who want to seek political advantage. They want to oppose these efforts. Some of them caused the problems that we got now in the first place, and then suddenly they're blaming other folks for it.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Senate’s Lone Hispanic Resigns After Casting Vote for Sotomayor

Obama nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate as the 111th Supreme Court Justice with a vote of 68-31. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic Justice in the history of the country, and the third female to hold the post. The 31 votes against Sotomayor were all from Republicans. The Senate’s lone Hispanic member, Republican Senator Mel Martinez from Florida, joined eight other members of his party in voting for Sotomayor. Coincidentally, Martinez abruptly and immediately resigned his Senate seat the next day.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Unemployment Rate Drops

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment figures for the month of July showing the unemployment rate dropped for the first time in fifteen months. While admitting, “Every job lost is a tragedy, and we still have a ways to go,” the President further stated, “these numbers are a promising indication that the deep recession is easing.”

Summarizing his efforts to restore the economy with the Recovery Act, Obama reminded Americans, “Today we’re pointed in the right direction. We’re losing jobs at less than half the rate we were when I took office. We’ve pulled the financial system back from the brink, and a rising market is restoring value to those 401(k)s that are the foundation of a secure retirement. We’ve enabled families to reduce the payments on their mortgages, making their homes more affordable and reducing the number of foreclosures. We helped revive the credit markets and opened up loans for families and small businesses.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

President Travels to Mexico for North American Summit

President Obama traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico to meet with fellow North American Leaders--Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The President described North America as “defined not simply by our borders, but by our bonds.”

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