In today's On the News segment: Recently released hospital billing data shows huge disparities in how uninsured patients were charged for care, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. For over a week, Republicans have refused to focus on anything but their so-called scandals. And, it turns out, that's exactly the way they want it. On Thursday, the Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank, sent a letter to GOP leaders, and told them to avoid working on any legislation that could take the focus off of the Obama Administration. Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action for America, wrote, "Legislation such as the Internet sales tax, or the FARRM Act, which contains nearly $800 billion in food stamp spending, would give the press a reason to shift their attention away from the failures of the Obama administration to write another 'circular firing squad' article." In other words, they want Republicans to use the media's scandal obsession to keep the focus off of in-fighting within the GOP, and to avoid getting any real work done. It's also important to note that Heritage Action is a registered 501(c)(4) organization. That means that taxpayers are subsidizing the very organization that's telling our lawmakers not to do their jobs. As if Republicans in Congress ever needed an excuse to do nothing. The fact is, while the GOP obsesses about so-called scandal, the pressing issues facing our nation are being ignored. Instead of trying to score political points, Republicans could be working to help our economy, create jobs, or to fix our broken immigration system. They were not elected to do the bidding of conservative think tanks. It's time for Republicans to listen to the American people, put aside political witch-hunts, and start working on the issues that could actually help the people they represent.
In screwed news... Corporate power is out of control. Western & Southern Insurance Group in Cincinnati decided it was buying the 104-year-old inn across the street from it's headquarters, even though the property was not for sale. Several years ago, Western & Southern offered to buy the Anna Louise Inn, a home for struggling women, for $1.8 million dollars – less than half its value. But, the women wouldn't sell. So, the company sued the women of Anna Louise over a zoning issue, and tied them up in court for over two years. Eventually, the costs of the legal fight became to much to bear, and the women were forced to sell the property to Western & Southern for $4 million dollars. They will soon be relocated to a new building in a shabby neighborhood two miles away. For decades, the Inn has been home to women leaving abusive husbands, recovering from drug addiction, or transitioning from foster care to adulthood. But, that's all about to change because this huge corporation could afford a legal fight, and the Anna Louise couldn't. Western & Southern used our court system as their personal sword, to wield power over those without the means to fight. They should be ashamed, and we should be outraged.
In the best of the rest of the news...
A recent release of hospital billing data showed huge disparities in the amounts the uninsured are charged for medical care. But, thanks to a new Obamacare regulation, patients without health insurance will soon get the same discounts given to the big, for-profit insurance companies. Last month, the IRS issued a new regulation, which states that hospitals can't charge uninsured patients a higher rate than the "amounts generally billed" to patients with healthcare coverage. This regulation may not go as far as some would like, but it's a great step toward ensuring access to affordable healthcare. Huge companies that profit off from denying medical care shouldn't be given a better deal than those who are forced to cover costs out of pocket. In fact, huge companies shouldn't be profiting from denying needed medical care at all. There's cause to celebrate this step, but we need to take it even further. Let's keep up the fight to ensure that everyone can get the medical care that they need. Let's fight for single-payer, Medicare for all!
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may finally fix the filibuster. According to the Washington Post, if Republicans block three key up-coming confirmations, Senator Reid will exercise the so-called "nuclear option" to do away with the 60-vote threshold on all nominations. The three up-coming confirmations are Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Thomas Perez as secretary of labor, and Gina McCarthy to head up the EPA. But, many democrats are wary of falling for this promise again. Republicans have blocked over 80 federal judge nominations, and numerous other agency positions, so it's hard to believe that blocking these three nominees will suddenly convince enough democrats to stand with Harry Reid in using the nuclear option. But, hopefully the democrats will finally stand together to fight the abuse of the 60-vote threshold. We must let our Senators know that it's time to get this done, and that we're fed up with the Republican obstructionism. Call your Senators today and tell them we don't need three more nominations blocked by the GOP. It's time to fix the filibuster now.
And finally... Last week, Republicans were celebrating their 37th vote to repeal Obamacare. In an effort to gain support for wasting more time and taxpayer money on the meaningless vote, the GOP took to Twitter to ask followers to describe Obamacare in three words. House Speaker John Boehner promoted the hashtag "#ObamacareInThreeWords" by adding his comment "repeal for jobs." But, the Obama Administration wanted in on the action too. In a response to the Twitter campaign, the White House Tweeted the hashtag, and added "It's. The. Law.", along with a picture of President Obama's signature from the actual Affordable Care Act legislation. The hilarious rebuttal has been retweeted almost 6,500 times, and continues to spread on Twitter. The White House also used the hashtag to explain other benefits of Obamacare in three words, like "no lifetime limits" and "young adults covered." If Republicans want to know the three words that Americans really care about, here they are: Get. To. Work.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, May 20, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.