Sunday, July 5, 2015

The lies from Austin must stop

In today’s Dallas Morning News there are not one, but two articles that describe the condition that Texas’ Tea Party Government has forced us into. Conditions that make us the laughing stock of America.  And this, from a newspaper that supported the entire slate of lunatics that have us retreating into the 1920’s as fast as we can go.  From a Governor who sees the immanent threat of invasion by federal troops to a house and senate full of ideological nitwits, Austin has become so out of step with reality that is goes beyond comical and has become dangerous.

I don’t have permission to share either Steve Blow’s or  Mitchell Schnurman’s columns, but do so as a public service. In case you do not have access to the Dallas Morning News, I share them with you today. Both of these men open the wound of lies and deceit that Abbott,  Patrick and Paxton have been festering in our state capital.

It is time for Texans to awaken to realize the radical, right-wing, pseudo-Christian Tea Party is a power hungry organization who will stop at nothing to get its way, even lying to its constituencies. 

From the Dallas Morning News dated 6.5.2015

Published: 04 July 2015 10:45 PM
Updated: 04 July 2015 11:24 PM

Politely, we could call it a ruse or a charade. But to put it in the plainest possible terms: They’re lying.
Texas public officials have been lying, and now the U.S. Supreme Court may decide if their lies amount to something unconstitutional.

Almost lost in all the attention to the same-sex marriage ruling was another action the Supreme Court took in the final hours of its term last week.

The court halted a Texas law that would have forced half the state’s abortion clinics to close. The action is only temporary — until the court decides this fall whether to hear a full appeal of the case.
But it was a solid sign that Texas officials may finally be held to account for their lies and underhanded tactics.
I wish this did not revolve around abortion. That’s such a huge, emotional subject that it almost obliterates the real issue at hand. And that’s abuse of government power.

Try to set aside your feelings about abortion for a moment. This is about Texas officials deciding they don’t approve of a legal right that all Americans have and using every possible inch of government intrusion to thwart it.
And they cover it all in a big lie: We’re only trying to protect the health and safety of Texas women, they say.

You know it’s a lie because they completely ignored the advice of those really working to protect the health of Texas women — their doctors.

Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposed the 2013 law, which forced extreme, unnecessary and unaffordable new regulations on abortion clinics.

“Yeah, it’s a lie. And it’s a really cynical lie to claim to increase safety for women when you’re actually restricting their access to a doctor,” said Jessica Pieklo, senior legal analyst for the online publication RH Reality Check.

Burdensome regulations in the law had already forced a dozen Texas clinics to close. Half the remaining 18 clinics would have also been regulated out of existence if not for the last-minute reprieve from the Supreme Court.

Already, Texas women are being forced to turn elsewhere for this particular medical procedure. Nationwide, abortion rates are declining. But not in Louisiana, where much of the increase came from women traveling from Texas.

A clinic in southern New Mexico draws half or more of its clients from Texas. And women are increasingly crossing into Mexico to buy pharmaceuticals with the off-label effect of inducing an abortion.

This is Texas leaders’ idea of protecting the health of Texas women?

Published: 04 July 2015 06:16 PM
Updated: 04 July 2015 08:29 PM

Just before the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act last month, Gov. Greg Abbott was railing against it.
“Now is not the time to double down on the welfare state,” Abbott wrote in an op-ed piece in the National Review. The headline read: “Congress and Governors: Just Say No to Obamacare.”

Abbott was anticipating the law would be rejected, but the court voted the other way, 6-3. And that’s not the only way he was wide of the mark.

After the ruling, Abbott wrote, “Employers won’t face the job-killing Obamacare penalties” in states that refuse to buy into the law, such as Texas. And he urged them to move here.

“I proudly welcome more by doing everything I can to end Obamacare in Texas,” he wrote.

That may play to his base, but it’s just flat wrong. His rhetoric won’t move Texas ahead on health care, and it’s not a clarion call to business.

“I’m confused by his remarks,” said Bill Hammond, CEO of the Texas Association of Business. “It doesn’t work like that.”

While states have latitude in how they approach the health law, it’s a national program. No one can escape the mandate for coverage by simply moving to a state that opposes the ACA. Taxpayers, employers and providers also can’t avoid paying their share by living somewhere that doesn’t embrace it.

Everybody’s paying for health reform. But Texas is lagging big-time in what it gets back.
It has the highest uninsured rate in the country, roughly 1 in 4 residents. And it trails the U.S. average in enrollment on, the exchange that provides federal subsidies for most of its customers.

In theory, no state has more to gain from affordable coverage for all. But Texas leaders are constantly dissing the law and forgoing billions in federal dollars. Money is the main reason business groups, including Hammond’s, want to expand Medicaid.

Texas’ sign-ups lag

If Texas extended the program to low-income adults, as have 29 states and Washington, over 1 million residents would get coverage — with federal money paying for nearly all of it.

But even more Texans, over 3 million in total, are eligible to buy insurance on the exchange. Yet just 32 percent of them enrolled this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

While that’s an improvement from 2014, the national average is 36 percent. Many large states enrolled over 40 percent, and Florida hit 57 percent. Florida enrolled almost half a million more than much-larger Texas.
Top lawmakers in Florida often criticize Obamacare. But the state has exceptional outreach efforts among nonprofits and community groups, especially around Miami and the central part of the state.

On that point, would we see any of these personally invasive laws if they were directed at Texas men?
Imagine Texas men being forced to hear state-mandated information read to them before being allowed to make a decision.

Imagine Texas men being forced to submit to a medically unnecessary ultrasound examination and a 24-hour waiting period before being able to exercise a legal right.

And then imagine a big lie about it all being for the health and safety of those men.
I can’t see the Texas Legislature standing for it one minute.

Again, I’m not trying to sway your feelings about abortion itself. You may feel strongly that it’s wrong. I respect that. But one of the earliest philosophical points we learn as children is that two wrongs don’t make a right.
This weekend, we’re celebrating our American freedoms. And Texas leaders profess to be unrivaled in their passion to defend those liberties.

But part of being American is protecting the freedom of others to make decisions that you would never make for yourself. On that test of patriotism, Texas leaders have failed miserably.

Perhaps it will take the U.S. Supreme Court to set things right.

In Texas, large metro areas benefited from the work of consumer groups, local leaders and insurers. But the response has varied widely. In the College Station area, as few as 12 percent of those who were eligible signed up for coverage, Kaiser said. The share topped 81 percent in some Houston suburbs.

In northeast Dallas County, including parts of Richardson and Garland, 71 percent of those eligible signed up, Kaiser said. Several other areas — including Coppell, north Irving, Duncanville and DeSoto — topped 50 percent.
But there were no statewide initiatives to boost sign-ups, and a consumer program ended a few years ago. The governor’s office, insurance department and health department haven’t launched efforts to increase participation. And leaders required extra training, background checks and fingerprinting for navigators.

Researchers from Harvard compared the impact of state policies in three Southern states — Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas. Kentucky expanded Medicaid, branded its own program and had extensive outreach. That paid off in the highest application rates, enrollment and positive experiences.

Caught up in rhetoric

Texas performed the worst.

“Our study suggests that state policy decisions are likely having a critical impact not only on eligibility but also on who chooses to apply for coverage and whether they successfully enroll,” the researchers wrote in Health Affairs magazine last month.

The finding seems predictable: More residents enroll if a state promotes the program and provides more help. So what are we waiting for?

“Can’t we tone down the rhetoric and try to work collaboratively for the citizens of Texas?” said Steve Love, CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.

As a starting point, he suggested Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts wrote.

Employers still have many concerns about the health law, including mandates and filing regulations. But they’re relieved the court upheld it, said Marianne Fazen, executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health. She wants the focus to shift to improving the law, not repealing it.

“Employers want health care to work better,” Fazen said.

Can Texas’ leaders even agree on that?

One man writes about the ACA and the other about the health care clinic debacle created by Austin. Both fundamentally flawed thinking that is hurting Texans.

It is time for the lies to stop.