Repealing the Affordable Care Act

Without spin or editorializing on the issue, here are some facts from The Center for Medicare Advocacy, medicareadvocacy.org, about the program Congress plans to repeal:

  • The uninsured percentage of Americans under 65 is the currently the lowest in decades. Beginning in 2014, the rate dropped from 16.6% to 10.5%.
  • As of March 31, 2016, 11.1 million people have coverage through the ACA Marketplace.
  • As of 2015, 11 million people in 31 states and the District of Columbia had coverage through Medicaid expansion under ACA, out of a total of 81 million on Medicaid.
  • There are 19 states that did not expand Medicaid: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
  • However, the ACA resulted in 16,748,000 people becoming eligible for Medicaid as of September 2016.

Congress says it will replace the ACA with something better. Dare we hope?

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com

©2017 John B. Payne, Attorney

Black Lives Matter, Too

Many of my fellow Whites see “Black Lives Matter” as meaning that police lives do not matter. That is a sad symptom of the sick state of ethnic and race relations in this country. Some who support Black Lives Matter are anti-police, just as some anti-establishment activists shouted “Off the Pigs” during Viet Nam War protests. However, those hostile and vicious thugs were and are a small minority trying to subvert the humanitarian goals of the larger movement. “Black Lives Matter” should be understood to mean, “Black Lives Matter, Too.”

I am incredibly proud of my daughters, who took in pound puppies (not the Tonka toys, but real pound puppies) and loved them until they are now better citizens than many of our high government officials and corporate CEOs. One dog, in particular, spent his first four months as a stray on the streets of Las Vegas. I cannot imagine this dog’s life as a stray in a desert city. How he found enough water to drink, let alone food, is a profound mystery.

Similarly, I cannot imagine the life of a coal miner who markwayne mullinworks grueling hours deep under ground and literally sacrifices his health to support his family. I cannot imagine the life of a farm worker who endures 14-hour days, bent over under a blistering sun, for less pay than a typical American spends on car payments. I cannot imagine the life of a gay or transgendered high school student afraid to enter a bathroom. I cannot imagine the life of an unemployed young Black or Latino in South Los Angeles. And I cannot imagine the life of a pregnant teenager in a state that makes it as difficult as possible to obtain an abortion. All of these lifes matter!

It is a huge and tragic problem that many, if not most, middle-class Whites think that they understand the lives of people who are different from them. They look at an unemployed person and assume that he or she is unemployed by choice. They see a pregnant welfare mother and assume that it is her choice to have another baby or that she does not know how to avoid becoming pregnant. They think the server who delivers their $3.49 Breakfast Special at the local hash house for sub-minimum wages works there by choice.

In truth, the coal minor, the farm worker, the unemployed Black or Latino and the server are all doing the best they can, given their opportunities and skills. Black Lives Matter is not just about Black men being shot by police. It is aimed at the gaping social inequality between the haves and the have-nots. The problem is not oppression of Blacks. It is oppression and denial of opportunity for all citizens who are disadvantaged by substandard education, physical disability, abysmal poverty, and discrimination based on race, gender identity, religion, ethnicity, and disability.

Our national leaders and the media want us to believe that the Black Lives Matter movement – to the extent that it is a movement – is a gaggle of gang members, terrorists and violent anarchists. That is their excuse to dismiss Black Lives Matter as anti-democratic and un-American because they do not want to effect change. They do not want good inner-city and rural schools nor are they willing to invest in the necessary infrastructure to make public transportation a reasonable alternative to private car ownership. They do not want affordable health care for all Americans. They hope to ignore the demands for equal opportunity and fairness and vilify and suppress Black Lives Matter the way they vilify and suppress the Occupy movement.

Black Lives Matter is not anti-police, it is pro-democracy and pro-equality. Instead of attacking Black Lives Matter, like the quasi-military forces of a tyrant cracking down on peaceful demonstrators, local police personnel should support its aims. Police officers are under the thumb of the establishment as much as anyone. They are being laid off and losing health and retirement benefits, just like employees in many fields. Furthermore, municipal police may have fairly good compensation and benefits, but they are vastly outnumbered by motivated and dedicated “security guards” who are forced to accept far lower compensation and minimal benefits.brett guthrie

A generation ago, security guards in state offices were civil servants, with reasonable wages, benefits and opportunities for advancement. Since then, the government has farmed out the responsibility for security in state and federal offices to the lowest-bidding private security companies, ensuring that the men and women securing the safety in government buildings will be paid as little as possible and deprived of even basic employee benefits. The same privatization (employee privation) is happening in every other government or corporate sphere that the plutocrats and autocrats in charge can rationalize. Even highly-trained and educated professionals are being downgraded to the status of casual labor, lacking benefits and the ability to negotiate the conditions of their employment.

Black Lives Matter is not just about Black men shot by police. It is about giving equal opportunity to children and adults who are Black or Latino or Muslim or LGBT, or who have disabilities. It is about ending voter suppression and living up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com

©2016 John B. Payne, Attorney

A New Ecumenism

robertson patVirginia Beach, Virginia – Pat Robertson and his surprise guest, Ayatolleh Ali Khamenei, announced a new ecumenical movement on today’s 700 Club show.  The philosophy which has been developed in secret talks between Mr. Robertson and Mr. Khamenei will be called Christo-Muslimania.

According to Mr. Robertson, the next U.S. President, Ted Cruz, intends to institute a regime of theocracy, homophobia, gender bias, minority disenfranchisement, elimination of social programs and militarism that is very similar to Mr. khamenei aliKhamenei’s rule.  He says that the United States and Iran will have a lot in common under Mr. Cruz’s administration, so it makes sense to improve relations between the countries’ major religions.

John Payne, in hiding somewhere near Virginia Beach, Virginia

Not Taxed Enough

Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the United State’s credit rating, if not the economy in general, should clue in TEA Partiers and disciples of Grover Norquist that the deficit cannot be brought down through spending cuts alone. The government needs more revenue and more economic stimulus through government spending. However, it is time to stop whining about all the taxes we pay and start bragging about our investment in our country.

Congress has to forget about extending the Bush-Era tax cuts for the wealthy and consider the additional revenue an infrastructure investment. Those funds can be directed at improving the nation’s roads, railroads and airports, energy and communication systems, water and resource conservation programs, and border security.

How often do you hear the wealthy mewl about high taxes, anyway? Never! It’s the TEA Partiers and conservative elected officials doing the kvetching. They are generally lower-middle- to middle-class schmucks like the rest of us. They just think that they will get more butter on their toast from the rich if they oppose taxing them. The Fox News Gang are just reading out of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing script.

Smart homeowners know that they cannot keep putting off repairs. It is common for homeowners to keep putting off upgrades and improvement. A couple who raised their family in a home they bought in the ’60s may have 30-year old avocado appliances, gold-colored shag carpet and an analog-digital converter so they would not have to replace their 13-inch Zenith TV. That’s fine if they feel more comfortable surrounded by outdated furnishings. However, they need to take action if the roof is leaking or termites are making lunch out of their studs and joists. We are beyond fashion considerations in our infrastructure.

We have bridges that are on the verge of collapse and civic buildings that are unsafe due to asbestos and formaldehyde. Our power grid is outdated and dangerous and lack of inspection of cargo and cargo vessels leaves us vulnerable to terrorist attacks, inadvertent importation of invasive species and food-born illnesses.

We have dire needs that could be addressed by a Congress that is not afraid to ask us to pay for what we need. They do not even have to call it a tax increase. Call it an investment in our nation’s future.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2011 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Fleecing the Deceased

Michigan’s Medicaid program has started estate recovery. As of July 1, 2011, on the death of a Medicaid recipient who received Medicaid benefits after age 55, the estate recovery minions will send the family a letter demanding cooperation in recouping the benefits paid by the state. The state contracted with HMS Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: HMSY) to pursue the estates of Medicaid recipients, presumably for a piece of the estate-recovery pie.

HMS has wasted no time. My clients’ kin and I started receiving letters and questionnaires regarding deceased Medicaid recipients at the beginning of August. It is too soon to tell how aggressive HMS will be, but experience with private collection agencies suggests that they will squeeze as much as possible out families, with little concern for the legal limitations on when, from whom, and how much recovery is legally permissible.

As determined as they are to repeal the estate tax to protect the property of wealthy decedents, TEA Partiers and other conservatives are surprisingly blasé about the state grabbing the homes of poor ones. There are no millionaires on Medicaid. Millionaires do not apply for Medicaid because they do not go in nursing homes. They stay at home and hire caregivers, or they move to comfortable apartments in high-end continuing-care retirement communities.

Estate recovery grabs the homes of persons who die with nothing but their homes. Usually, the homes are very modest, but for a family on the edge of poverty a small legacy could help a son or daughter avoid homelessness or start a grandchild toward a college degree.

The new Medicaid policy was promulgated effective July 1, 2011, but it applies to all Medicaid recipients who were over 55 and received benefits after September 30, 2007. There are many grey areas regarding what estates may have Medicaid claims filed against them and what would be covered by a hardship exemption. Whether an estate that was opened and closed before July 1, 2011 is safe from the state’s Medicaid claim is unclear. It will depend on whether the courts decide that Medicaid was entitled to notice as a “known creditor” before July 1, 2011. It is also unclear whether the personal representative must fill out HMS’s questionnaire and apply for an exemption from Department of Community Health or lose the exemption. Filling out the questionnaire is “voluntary,” but it says in the fine print that failing to send in the questionnaire would cause the loss of the exemption.

There can be no estate recovery if the Medicaid recipient is survived by a spouse. There can also be no estate recovery if the estate consists of the home and a family member who meets certain technical requirements lives in the home. Any survivor of a Medicaid recipient who receives a letter and questionnaire from HMS should consult an attorney to find out whether there is an exemption that can be taken. Do not rely on the advice of HMS agents at the toll-free number on the letter.

Whether HMS will respect the legal boundaries on its collection authority is an open question. At least some HMS representatives will be like the police officer who gives Miranda warnings then says, “The law says I have to read you your rights, but if you ‘lawyer up’ I will not be able to help you.” An amazing number of persons in custody confess to crimes they did not commit because the police convince them it is in their best interests–this is not a joke! At least some HMS agents will do the same. They will say, “Yes, you can claim an exemption, but I can no longer cut you a deal if you do.”

Collection agents have a lot of practice talking people out of money, while the surviving next of kin who are being targeted for collection efforts will have little or no experience dealing with them and often will not know their rights. The agents will have only one objective–getting as much money out of the surviving family as possible, in the shortest time. They are not be paid to be fair; they are paid to bring in money. Trying to deal with HMS without an attorney is like going to a gunfight with a rubber knife.

Medicaid Estate Recovery is a new program in Michigan, with a lot of grey areas that make it difficult to know whether a given estate is vulnerable. Even in Pennsylvania, where estate recovery has been in place for nearly a decade, there are many uncertainties. It is vitally important to consult an Elder Law attorney before responding to a letter from HMS. It is also important to talk to an Elder Law attorney if you or a close relative is nearing the age where long-term care is more likely, or if you have a loved one who already needs long-term care. Nursing care is expensive, whether at home or in a nursing home. An Elder Law attorney can provide valuable advice about how the expense can best be managed.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2011 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Minnesota: Government by Truculent Four-Year-Olds

Traveling on I-94 near Ann Arbor, Michigan, I pulled into a rest area today. This is a privilege denied to motorists on I-94 in Minnesota, since Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota legislature are acting like truculent four-year-olds. They shut the state down over a budget disagreement. From border to border, I-94 runs 260 miles through Minnesota. That is four hours of driving without a rest area, which is dangerous–not merely unpleasant and uncomfortable.

A political conflict is understandable, but shutting down state parks, highway rest areas, and other state amenities, not to mention really vital services, is unforgivable. Each side is betting that the public will blame its opponents. To a large degree, this is what will happen.

Right-wingers listen to right-wing radio and Fox News. They hear and believe accusations against the left. Liberals do not have left-wing radio or a left-wing network, but they listen to Rachel Maddow and John Stewart and dismiss right-wing radio and Fox News as a pile of bovine manure. They hear and believe blame levied on right-wingers. Those on the right are likely to blame liberals for the shutdown, but liberals are equally likely to blame the right for the shutdown.

That engineering a state shutdown is a sound political strategy does not make it either right or pardonable. Furthermore, these spoiled, immature jerks intentionally made the shutdown as unpleasant for the public as possible. For example, closing facilities like state parks and highway rest areas was unnecessary. Various nonprofits, such as service clubs, churches, and support groups, could have been recruited to maintain services at such state facilities.

We already have an Adopt-A-Highway program, which relies on service clubs and other organizations to keep parts of the freeway system clean. There is no reason that nongovermental groups could not operate highway rest areas, campgrounds, beaches, libraries, and such facilities. This would require a more extensive operation than Adopt-A-Highway, but it would also provide more chances for charities to solicit donations or make money providing services. However, it would require elected government officials to be more concerned with the welfare of the citizens than they are about political advantage. That is why it does not happen.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2011 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 

Republican Hypocrisy over Shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

The shooting of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is a sad, but predictable, result of the type of vitriolic campaigning used by TEA Partiers and other right-wingnuts. When leaders accuse their opponents of being traitors and of desecrating the constitution, zealot supporters will interpret that as a green light for violence. There is only one way to interpret Sarah Palin’s use of rifle-scope crosshairs to indicate targeted Democrats on her campaign map: “Take ‘em out, Boys!” The Republican leadership set the stage for violence and has no legitimate claim to be anything but satisfied by the result.

Sarah Palin, John Boehner, John McCain, and other Republican leaders expressed “horror” over the shootings. I do not for a minute believe that they were anything but gleeful. They should keep their damned mouths shut.

I remember President Reagan claiming that he was “appalled” at the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982. His expression was as hypocritical as Palin’s, Boehner’s and McCain’s. Those massacres were carried out by Reagan’s ally, Ariel Sharon. Neither Reagan nor his administration lifted a finger to halt the massacres, punish the perpetrators, or assist the survivors.

There is no excuse for this kind of blatant duplicity. Right-wingers accuse anyone to the left of Sean Hannity of being a traitor and a Commie who is a danger to America. They claim that President Obama is a closet Muslim who was not born on U.S. soil and moan that the health reform act will destroy the country. Since we who are in favor of health care for all are evil people who are trying to wreck the country, is it any wonder that dedicated disciples of Palin and Boehner would decide that assassinating us is doing God’s work?

The TEA Party and Republican leadership should at least have the integrity to express their honest feelings about the shootings in Tucson. They are pleased and owe it to the country to admit it.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2011 John B. Payne, Attorney