Talk to Congress: There’s An App for That

New Orleans   Ok, so you want to have your voice heard in Washington, but your marching shoes have holes in the soles, and your budget is too busted to bus? Well, there’s an app for that, in fact lots of them.

You need to be in that number. A piece in Wired reported from the Congressional Management Foundation that with the explosion of email, the volume to Congress had risen by more than 500% from just 2002 to 2010. They also reported that Pennsylvania’s Senator Bob Casey had received 50,000 emails on the subject of confirming billionaire, private school advocate Betty DeVos as Education Secretary alone. For getting mass volumes of emails easily into your local Congressperson, they recommend Countable and Democracy.io. Try them, see if you like them, or look up your rep, copy, paste, and let ‘er rip.

Does it work? Well, that’s a whole different problem, so don’t get your hopes up too high, because if you thought there was a numbers-game when it comes to crowd counts on the Washington Mall, the explosion of emails into Congress means that you need six-figures to get past the yawn in the back room and anywhere near any throat clearing response from your elected. Reports indicate that only about one-third get an answer, and the answers are often stock, simple, and stupid.

Once again, Wired reports the excuse for this disheartening response:

the software that staffers have to process those emails remains antiquated, says Seamus Kraft, the executive director of the OpenGov Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit organization he co-founded with US representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican.

Let’s not act surprised. Issa, as many would remember, is the San Diego area right-winger who for a while has been the richest member of Congress and more recently the head of the House Committee on Investigations. His money and his voice is on the car alarm system that says, “Back away from this car,” so the software seems to be in the same vein as “back away from your computer and your Congressional representative.” Little comfort that?

Congressional staffers report that they pretty much just hit the “delete” button on online petitions, so that may help you build your organization and you contact list, but don’t drink your own Kool-Aid and think it’s moving your folks. On the other hand, they also admit that the old fashion move to get on the blower and zing them a phone call ranks above petitions and emails.

There’s an old-fashion app for that. Put their numbers on speed dial and let your voice literally ring into their office. Don’t be shy either. If you’re humiliated while reading that we have stuck Syrian refugees, vetted for years, and fleeing civil war and strife at airports now, let them know about the sadness in your heart for the America they love. Ask them what they think it means for example that we claim that we will not discriminate against people for their religion or country of origin. Heck, tell them whatever is on your mind.

And, after you hang up and wonder if you were just wasting your breath with your elected representative, then think seriously about joining an organization, putting in some sweat equity, and building something that will create change. We’ll work on an app for that, but until then, it’s you, me, and everyone we know who have to get up and go.

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Congress is the Undercard, the Real Fight for Healthcare is Still Corporate

imrs.phpNew Orleans   Recently the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act for something like the 62nd time. They have now almost banned Obamacare from being funded as many times as they have barred ACORN! The more you understand about the continued tug of war behind the scene with employers, hospitals, drug companies, doctors, and insurance companies, the more you realize the political machinations on the front pages are window dressing, just part of the puppet show as the pols are pulled back and forth, up and down by the big players. Not to mix too many metaphors, but they are the weak under-card in this fight, while the heavyweights are the companies punching back and forth for advantage.

Of course we have the scandalous way that some drug companies are trying to play arbitrage with people’s health and hike the prices of rare drugs through the roof, regardless of the body count, not caring about anything other than making Wall Street happy. This situation is so grotesque that Congress may be forced to do something about it. We also have 800 pound gorilla setting on the examining table and continuing to pose the most serious problem, increasingly noticed, but left unattended, and that is the persistent problem that employers did not play fair on Obamacare and have largely squeezed through the loopholes, providing coverage in name only with deductibles, co-payments, and monthly bills all collectively so high that millions of lower waged workers are having to embrace the fines, because actual health coverage on offer is financially out of their reach and unreasonable.

A story in Modern Healthcare about the insurance companies’ tug of war was also depressing and enlightening particularly because the companies continue to play such a huge, daunting role in the exchanges, pricing, and coverage. CMS, the Obamacare administrator, is trying to nail down regulations for 2017, understanding that they need to lock as many backdoors as possible before the Obamas pack out of the White House. They proposed a rule that would require any health insurers to require all insurer networks “to include hospitals and doctors within certain travel times or distances from members. There would also be minimum provider-to-member ratios for some medical specialties. The CMS wanted to make sure consumers had access to enough healthcare providers as more insurers moved to narrow-network products.”

And, that’s when everything hit the fan. The CMS is basically trying to make sure that those who buy into care get a standard package across the country to meet their health needs. The insurers and some of their buddies in the state insurance commission offices, who are most frequently their captive audiences, in some states are crying like stuck pigs. They claim they want to tailor the networks to each state rather than have a federal cookie cutter approach, but the real deal is likely just making a deal that makes the big insurers they are used to currying happier to do business with them. Many hospitals and doctor groups line up with CMS on this one rather than being hammered even harder by the insurance bullies. According to Modern Healthcare some of them even advocate that “the CMS…go a step further and build network standards for appointment wait times.”

Meanwhile hospitals and doctors have their own issues. Doctors employed by hospitals in Oregon have even organized a union because of rough handling by the hospitals. Hospitals are being scored by CMS for service, recovery, and billing and some of the outfits that can’t make the mark are squealing about the scores rather than trying to do better on the tests. Meanwhile hospital requirements for providing affordable care to justify their tax exemptions, enjoyed by many, are still resisting and avoiding any accountability.

My best advice is to not take your eye off of the healthcare fight. It’s a long way from over yet, and any notion that we won, has been gone since the early rounds.

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Please enjoy Since You Been Gone by The Heavy.  Thanks to KABF.

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