Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sensitive New Age Guy

In previous SCHIP posts, I had attributed Mike Rogers' opposition to health care for children to politics.

This seemed like a reasonable assumption, given that Rogers has proven himself to be a reliably perky, fact-free Bush cheerleader on any given topic (Iran, SCHIP, budgets...).

The Democrats re-introduced the SCHIP bill, spelling out the "problematic" bits in language clear enough even for those Congresscritters who move their lips when they read.

All together, now:

*NO coverage for illegal aliens

*NO coverage for families over 300% of the poverty level
(this means you, hypothetical rich people).

*NO cuts to services for senior citizens, just cuts to the private insurance companies that are gouging the government through the Medicaid Advantage program

Yet Mr. Rogers and a majority of his GOP buds still said no. Why? Was this just another example of mindless partisan politics?

Oh no, my friends. It wasn't politics at all.

See, Mr. Rogers and his colleagues are a deeply sensitive bunch. Their feelings were bruised, their self-esteem dented and their confidence shaken when those mean ol' Dems brought back the SCHIP bill.

Here are the sad, sad details, stright from The Horse's Mouth:
The latest rationale: They voted against it because Democratic leaders were nasty to them.

That's what angry House GOPers have now
told Dem leaders in a private meeting on the Hill:

In a closed-door meeting before the last vote on the children’s health care bill, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer appealed for the support of about 30 wavering Republican lawmakers. What he got instead was a tongue-lashing, participants said.

The GOP lawmakers, all of whom had expressed interest in a bipartisan deal on the SCHIP legislation, were furious that the Democratic leader from Maryland had not reached out to them in a more serious way early on. They also criticized him and Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois for failing to stop his allies outside Congress from running attack ads in their districts, while they were discussing a bipartisan deal.

One GOPer who sniffled particularly loud about his maltreatment at the hands of House Dems was GOP Rep. Ric Keller of Florida, who complained:

"They spent $1.5 million through their various shill outreach groups attacking me and a handful of my colleagues. But they did not spend five minutes to approach me to ask for my vote."

Stop the hurt. Hug a Republican today.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mike Rogers: Bull-SCHIP Excuses

Last night, the House passed a revised version of the SCHIP bill 265-142 -- close, but no cigar on being veto-proof. You won't be at all surprised to learn that Mike Rogers voted against health care for the children of working families... AGAIN.

The SCHIP bill that went up for a vote last night had a few minor changes; the only substantive change was a national income eligibility cap that won't let states cover families earning over 300% of the poverty level. This addressed the bogus but oft-repeated charge that "wealthy" families would instantly drop their private coverage and switch to the SCHIP program.

Well that's not good enough for Mike Rogers, Defender of Family Values! He expressed his concerns to the New York Times :

Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, said children from affluent families could still qualify for benefits because states, in determining eligibility, could ignore or disregard part of a family’s income.
Whoa there, Mr. Rogers -- are you actually saying that the federal government knows how to spend $$ better than individual states?

So much for your conservative values...

In case you've missed them, here are some other bull-SCHIP tales from Mr. Rogers' Big Bag O' Excuses:

"It covers adults, but it should only be for children."
This is always good for a laugh, since the Bush administration was pushing states to boost their adult SCHIP enrollment two years ago. A Freep editorial noted that Michigan adults participating in SCHIP are doing it with Mike Rogers' blessing:
Enrollees' annual income cannot exceed $3,500; the program is designed mainly to get them preventive care that will keep them out of emergency rooms. Two Republican congressmen (Mike Rogers and Dave Camp) sent a letter supporting the state's application.

In any event, Congress ended this option; it was not in the bill that the president vetoed.
"It will take money away from health care for seniors."
Despite Rogers' recent scare-filled letter to retirees, budget cuts in Medicare Advantage will be made in payments to insurers, not to senior citizens. But hey, Rogers is just looking out for the folks who helped pay for his campaign.

"Wealthy families will drop private insurance and freeload off the taxpayers."
Once more with feeling: Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag testified that

"...I have not seen any other proposals to reduce the number of uninsured children by 5 million with crowd-out rates that are lower than 33 percent. Again, in the absence of a mandate on an employer, or a mandate on an individual, or a mandate on state governments, CBO does not believe you’re going to do much better than these kinds of crowd-out rates."
The Urban Institute estimates that over 70% of the children covered by the bill would come from families making less than $41,300; most of the others would have family incomes under $62,000.

"Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for other people's health care."
Maybe Mike Rogers has forgotten just who has been picking up the tab for his health care as he served in the Army, worked for the FBI, sat in the Michigan legislature and "represents" the 8th District in Washington...

Call him. Write him. Fax him. Let Rogers know that we're watching his breathtakingly bad voting record.

If all else fails, vote him out of office in November 2008!

(cross-posted at Michigan Liberal)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CHOMPing at the Bit

An interesting story floated into my inbox this morning. It seems that Mike “I’m too busy to talk to my constitutents” Rogers will be putting on his party togs for a big-bucks GOP fundraiser in Washington, D.C. Tonight’s CHOMP (Challengers Helping Obtain the Majority Program) bash will raise money from House Republicans and dole out the cash to GOP challengers around the country who look like they have the right stuff.

The Hill had an item about the CHOMP party, including these helpful numbers:
The event, which is set for Oct. 24 at the Capitol Hill Club, has raised between
$75,000 and $100,000 per candidate in the past and is expected to raise a similar amount this time. A letter distributed to House GOPers on Tuesday asks them to contribute $2,000 from their campaign committees and $5,000 from their
leadership PACs to each of the nine candidates.
CHOMP was founded in the 2006 cycle by Rogers and Pete Sessions (TX); tonight’s event is co-chaired by Jim McCrery (LA).

Isn’t it nice that Mr. Rogers is working so hard on behalf of his fellow politicians? It’s totally understandable that he was caught up in the arrangements for tonight’s moneyfest – of course he wouldn’t have had spare time to listen to any of the 8th District voters’ concerns about the SCHIP veto. Thank heavens for the Bush talking points – they are such a time-saver for a busy party-planner! And we all know it's super-crucial to raise money, as The Politico points out.
Republicans have struggled to keep pace with House Democrats in fundraising this year after falling from power last fall. But the GOP still sees plenty of pick-up opportunities in some of those same seats they lost last year.

As evidence, the three powerhouse fundraisers included some of their former colleagues on the list of nine recipients: Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire, Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania and Jim Ryun of Kansas. The program raised more than $1.4 million during the last election cycle, and the current harvest should give some of these Republicans a financial boost heading in to 2008.

“We hope to do what we did last year,” Rogers said. “This allows us to go on offense.”

Silly me. I thought Mr. Rogers' job was to go on offense for the people of Michigan's 8th Congressional District. A quick glance at the Press & Argus front pages from this morning (County may lose out on housing aid ) and yesterday ('Katrina-like' woes loom at food bank give a pretty clear picture of what is going on here in Livingston County.

What will it take for Mike Rogers to take a break from scenery-CHOMPing on the national political stage and actually work to help us here at home?

You'd think he'd show a little appreciation... after all, us taxpayers are footing the bill for his health care...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Willing Suspension of Disbelief, Part One

My kids are fairly skeptical bunch -- but they come by it honestly. When they were younger, they'd complain about books and movies that had totally silly plot lines or situations. That's when we sat down and talked about the concept of "willing suspension of disbelief."

Coined by the poet Samuel Coleridge, this is a device used in fiction (particularly in theater and film) which allows the author to get his or her point across without bowing to the constraints of reality. Wikipedia has a pretty concise description of why this works:
According to the theory, suspension of disbelief is a quid pro quo: the audience tacitly agrees to provisionally suspend their judgment in exchange for the promise of entertainment.
I thought about willing suspension of disbelief recently when a retired friend forwarded me a letter from Mike Rogers. In it, he described his latest reason for opposing SCHIP: "...[it] could cut the Medicare program by $190 billion if it becomes law."

Oh, please. Apparently, the bogeymen of illegal immigrants and wealthy families free-riding on taxpayers wasn't scary enough. Mr. Rogers decided to expand his apocalyptic vision of the future to include senior citizens losing funding for home oxygen as SCHIP threatened the Medicare Advantage program.

(Hey, kids -- don't provisionally suspend your judgement just yet! )

Here's a little background on the supposedly endangered Medicare Advantage (MA). MA is the program through which private insurance plans participate in Medicare. It offers some benefits that traditional Medicare doesn't, like dental coverage. It may also offer rebates and discounts to enrollees. MA has grown rapidly since it began in 2003. As of June 2007, it covered about 18% of Medicare beneficiaries. There are three types of MA programs: HMO (health maintenace organization), PPO (preferred provider organization) and PFFS (private fee for service). PFFS programs became an MA option in 2006.

Now, Republicans like Mike Rogers will tell you that competition is good. So is choice, and so is efficiency. They believe that private insurers do a much more efficient job of providing health benefits to retirees than the nasty, bloated federal monster that is Medicare Part A & B.

Except that they don't.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, these private Medicare Advantage plans cost an average of 12 percent more than traditional Medicare. For PFFS plans, the cost is 19% higher. In Congressional testimony this summer, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (an independent federal body) noted that

The excess payments to private plans allow them to be less efficient than they would
otherwise have to be, because inefficient plans can use the excess payments—rather than savings from efficiencies—to finance extra benefits that in turn attract enrollees to such plans.

Unfortunately, MA has instead become a program in which there are few incentives for efficiency. Although MA uses "bidding" as the means of determining plan payments and beneficiary premiums, the bids are against administratively-set

Put differently, inefficient plans—as well as efficient plans—are able to provide the kind of enhanced coverage that attracts beneficiaries to private plans because of generous MA program payments. These additional payments are funded by all taxpayers. Furthermore, all Medicare beneficiaries—not just the 18 percent of beneficiaries enrolled in private plans—pay higher Part B premiums to fund these payments in excess of Medicare FFS levels.(emphasis mine)

A recent CBO briefing paper estimates that between 2007 and 2017, spending on MA will total $1.5 trillion -- more than 25% of all spending for benefits under traditional Medicare.

The Century Foundation, a nonprofit public policy research group, has an informative -- and readable -- paper on the economics of Medicare Advantage. Included in its analysis are some useful industry numbers. For example, the 2007 second quarter profits at UnitedHealth were up 22%, Aetna saw 16% jump and Wellpoint 11% in the same period. Pretty impressive, you'd think, until you read this:

This is not to say that Wall Street broke out the champagne. In recent years, investors have come to count on rich returns from insurers, and many sniff at numbers like 11 percent. To give you an idea of what investors expect, consider the fact that Humana’s stock has climbed 26 percent in the past seven months. Over five years, UnitedHealth Group’s shares have gained 125 percent, while WellPoint’s investors have reaped a 130 percent return.

How is this possible, given that growing numbers of employers are reducing health insurance benefits or dropping them altogether?

Bloomberg explains: "UnitedHealth’s profits rose 22 percent on gains from govern-ment -sponsored medical programs." Here Bloomberg is referring to what it describes as "the boon UnitedHealth has seen from increasing the profitability of its Medicare programs for the elderly and adding 290,000 members in state Medicaid programs for the poor in the 12 months through June 30."

Aetna also got a boost from the government; in the second quarter, it raked in Medicare premiums of $677.8 million, up from $436 million a year earlier. WellPoint President Angela Braly echoes the theme, announcing that her company’s profits were driven by "expanded enrollment in government-funded programs" [skip] In fact, "Humana derives more than 50 percent of its 2007 earnings from Medicare Advantage alone," Justin Lake, an analyst with UBS Investment Research, recently pointed out to his clients. The company is forecasting Medicare profits margins of 5 percent for 2007—up from 4 to 5 percent in earlier statements. [skip]

To put it bluntly, at a time when some customers are deserting private insurers (because they find premiums too high), the government is subsidizing the industry. But is this Medicare’s job? Are we to view UnitedHealth as another Chrysler? Are the taxpayers who fund Medicare responsible for making sure that UnitedHealth’s shareholders continue to make 125 percent on their investment every five years?

Good question.

Now, back to the willing suspension of disbelief. Mike Rogers wants you to believe that funding for children's health care coverage would have seriously threatened seniors' health care coverage.

Well, Mr. Rogers, I'm not suspending my judgement -- and I'm not at all entertained by a politician who uses scare tactics to protect subsidies for a billion-dollar industry.

Especially when that politician received nearly one-third of his 2006 total PAC contributions from the health & insurance industries...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Money see, money do

In case you were worried that Mike Rogers was too busy defending the indefensible and voting against health care for the children of working families to have time for anything else, I bring you glad tidings!

This Press & Argus article will reassure you that for Mr. Rogers, it's business as usual:

LOCAL: Rogers' campaign account grows

According to filings earlier this month with the Federal Election Commission, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, now has more than $500,000 in his re-election campaign bank account.

From July through September, Rogers raised about $153,500 and spent around $121,000, adding approximately $32,500 to his cash on hand. He now has $523,358 in his campaign account.

No Democratic challenger has emerged. The election is Nov. 2008.

About $85,000 of Rogers' contributions in the reporting period came from individuals, and $68,000 from political action committees.

Possessed of a healthy curiosity, I went online to check out the specifics of the Q3 filing.

According to, so far this year Rogers has raised $443,543 in total receipts; $192,088 in individual contributions, $247,231 in PAC contributions, and $1,484 from party committees. He knows that it will take quite a chunk o'change to buy all the happy-talk ads needed to distract people from his record on children's health, veterans and national security...

He's already spent $272,730... with the election still 13 months away and no challenger in sight.

SCHIP of Fools: Rogers was for it before he was against it

A number of local papers have run op-eds and columns in support of the SCHIP override, including the Livingston County Press & Argus, the Flint Journal and the Ann Arbor News. These smaller regional papers were joined by the Free Press (one of the nation's top 20 papers) with this morning's excellent pro-SCHIP editorial. The editorial shot down the laundry list of "reasons" given by Rogers, Walberg, Knollenberg et al for voting against SCHIP.

The best part of the Freep editorial?
• In Michigan, 42% of SCHIP enrollees are childless adults, a program the state started with the Bush administration's blessing. Enrollees' annual income cannot exceed $3,500; the program is designed mainly to get them preventive care that will keep them out of emergency rooms. Two Republican congressmen (Mike Rogers and Dave Camp) sent a letter supporting the state's application.

(emphasis mine).

In other words, Mike Rogers "was for it before he was against it"

Hypocrisy isn't pretty.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

SCHIP and Military Families

Most people understand that SCHIP helps working parents afford health care coverage for their children. Many people don't know that there are provisions in the SCHIP bill vetoed by President Bush that have a major impact on military families, too.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released this statement yesterday:

SCHIP Veto Hurts Families of Wounded TroopsOverlooked Provisions in Insurance Bill Have Significant Impact on Military Families

NEW YORK – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation's first and largest nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, today urged Congress to override the President’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization. SCHIP includes two little-known provisions which help the families of critically wounded troops. The provisions provide one year of employment discrimination protection to family members caring for severely injured troops, and extends permitted work leave for those family members from three months to six months. Congress passed SCHIP earlier this month, but President Bush vetoed the legislation for reasons unrelated to these military families’ amendments. This Thursday, the House will vote on whether to override the President’s veto.
One in five severely wounded troops say a family member or friend has been forced to give up a job to care for them. This is true of Annette McLeod, who is featured in the national TV ad campaign IAVA is running this week to demand that Congress
and the President improve care for veterans. Mrs. McLeod’s husband, Specialist Wendall McLeod, sustained multiple, life-threatening injuries while serving in Iraq. “When my husband returned home grievously wounded, it ripped my life apart,” said Mrs. McLeod. “I lived in South Carolina, but Wendell was being treated in Washington, DC. After just three months, the human resources department at the factory where I had worked for 20 years said I had exhausted my time off. Being forced to give up my job made a heart-wrenching and difficult time even harder.”


Hopefully, Mr. Rogers will actually DO something to support our troops and vote to override the veto on Thursday.
If you haven't already, please call, write, fax or email his office. Contact info is on the right-hand side of the page.


This cartoon and the chart that follows it pretty much sum up Mike Rogers' priorities...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mike Rogers: SCHIP Wrecker

I've posted quite a bit on SCHIP lately, and one of the things I find so interesting about it is the incredibly diverse group that supports this bill: Carolyn Kilpatrick and Candice Miller; the AMA and the health insurance industry; and the AARP and the American Academy of Pediatrics, just to name a few.

After Bush's veto, politically active groups wasted no time in targeting anti-SCHIP politicians: the DCCC's "Putting Children First" ad spotlighted the anti-SCHIPpers in vulnerable districts, and has organized Rally for Our Children's Health Care events across the country.

Over at Michigan Liberal, Gaspare noted an entry by a group that's not so nationally prominent: Catholics United is running a new pro-SCHIP ad in targeted districts around the country.
"Building a true culture of life requires public policies that promote the welfare of the most vulnerable," said Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United. "At the heart of the Christian faith is a deep and abiding concern for the need of others. Pro-life Christians who serve in Congress should honor this commitment by supporting health care for poor children."
Mr. Rogers is most certainly a pro-life politician. He got a perfect score from the Republican National Coalition for Life, which classifies him as "Pro-life Without Discrimination." Among other things, this means that Rogers agreed with the following statement:

all innocent human beings, from conception until natural death, at every stage of development, deserve legal protection.
Whenever pro-life pols spout about the sanctity of human life, then unblinkingly support the death penalty or vote against health care for the children of the working poor, I can't help thinking of the great comment by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA):

"To a Republican, life begins at conception and ends at birth."

Now, I'm sure Mr. R. looks to his east (Knollenberg) and to his west (Walberg) and heaves a sigh of relief that he's not targeted. He sits in a safely gerrymandered district, cushioned by all the money he's raised from PACs and other like-minded House "leaders."

It would be a mistake, though, for Rogers to equate not being targeted with being right.

The bill goes back for an override vote on Thursday, October 18th. Call, fax, email or write Rogers today -- let him know that turning his back on children is not an option.

133 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4872
Fax: (202) 225-5820
1327 E. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, Michigan 48912
Phone: (517) 702-8000
Toll Free: 877-333-MIKE
Fax: (517) 702-8642
Web email

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Retrospectoscope

Retrospectoscope (n):
1.) an imaginary tool used to view one's past actions in the nicest possible light
2.) a convenient device for shifting blame

Mr. Rogers has been a busy guy in the last few weeks, what with voting against health care for poor kids and vigorously defending his vote with a froth of inaccurate talking points, giving unsolicited and ill-advised budget advice to Michigan lawmakers, taking credit for literacy programs he didn't create, and of course banging the drums about The Looming Iranian Threat.

Thankfully, his retrospectoscope is all tuned up and ready to go. In his latest application of that marvelous device, he wrote a guest column for Sunday's Press & Argus titled, "Taxes grow government, not economy." In it, he opined
When I served in the Michigan Senate, we cut taxes and reformed government, making Michigan, in the mid-1990s, the top state for job creation and among the lowest in unemployment. Contrast that with today, when Michigan has staggering job losses and one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
Actually, Mr. Rogers, your votes in the Michigan Senate led to a multimillion-dollar deficit. Over at Michigan Liberal, HazenPingree reminds us of a time

Back when SUVs were selling like crack cocaine and Michigan was flush with cash (relatively speaking), John the Body [Gov. Jon Engler] and his allies in the Republican-controlled legislature thought it would be fun to cut Michigan's income tax rate from 4.4 percent to 3.9 percent. But they didn't have the chutzpah to do it all at once. Instead, they opted to phase it in...over 5 years.

No prizes for guessing who supported this time-bomb tax cut: Mike Rogers.

Mr. Rogers goes on to blame the Democrats in Washington for approving "billions in new spending," but he neglects to mention that Republicans controlled both the Congress and the White House during his first three terms in office. The explosive growth of the U.S. budget and current account deficits started waaay back in 2000 -- long before the Democrats took office ten months ago.

In a virtuoso display of retrospectoscope use, Rogers regurgitates a Tax Foundation factoid stating that Michigan has the 14th highest tax burden in the country. Well, not only is the Tax Foundation ranking incorrect according to the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB ranked Michigan 26th), but it's also incorrect according to the Tax Foundation itself. The non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the TF is a member of the Retrospectoscope Varsity team:

Between the 2002 Tax Foundation report and the 2005 revision, the ranking by state and local tax burden of 24 states changed by at least five places, and in 13 states the rankings changed by at least 10 places.

Bottom line? Mike Rogers can quote the Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and right-wing think tanks to his heart's content, but it won't change the fact that lot of bad economic decisions have been made on his watch.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Let the S-CHIPs Fall

Today's Lansing State Journal ("Gannett R Us") had a little story about the 60+ people who showed up at Mike Rogers' Lansing office urging him to support an override of Bush's S-CHIP veto.

For those of you who have tried to meet with Rogers or his Lansing staffers, this won't come as a surprise:
The door to Rogers' office was locked during the protest, and neither he nor staffers were immediately available for comment.

The crowd contained crazed, sign-holding agitators spouting incediary lefty slogans. Here's an example:
"This really gets me upset," said Keith McCall, 87, of East Lansing, who stood alongside Michigan Avenue waving a sign. "This was a stupid vote."

Now, I'm sure we'll see a written statement from SpokesWriter Sylvia Warner at some point, parroting the Bush line on the S-CHIP veto. It will most likely be reprinted as written (thanks, Gannett!), without reportorial challenge to the many, ah, misstatements it contains.

Need a preview? Take a look at last week's press release from Rogers. Rogers voted against the bill last week because it had some suspicious earmarks in it. No, wait -- he voted against it because it would give families making $83,000 free health insurance. No, that's not it -- he voted against it because it would give free health care to illegal aliens. I know -- it's because it makes "massive" cuts to Medicare.

All of these are Bush talking points, and all of them are misleading at best.

(1) The $83,000 earners are a myth. Several months ago, the state of New York asked for an $82,600 waiver to the income cap, since NY has an incredibly high cost of living. The Bush administration said NO. Through the magic of spin, Bush (and his trusty cheerleader Mike Rogers) turned this around and said it was part of the S-CHIP bill.

(2) The bill did NOT include health care for illegal aliens. Infact, the bill would require legal immgrants to wait five years before applying.

(3) The bill is NOT a first step to socialized medicine. It's not an entitlement program, it's a block grant. The federal government doesn't administer S-CHIP; each state can administer the funds as they see fit. And here's a thought: if you think this is socialism then what, pray tell, would you call Medicare?

(4) The bill has bipartisan support. In fact, the bill was designed with a number of provisions that made it acceptable to conservatives like Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas). Oh, yeah -- and the AARP, AMA, the Catholic Church and a majority of the health insurance industry.

(5) Mike Rogers has clearly shown that he supports government support for Blackwater, but not for the 55,000 Michigan children who benefit from this program. The total cost of this bill, which covers ten million children over the next five years, is equal to 41 days of the Iraq War.

Do your part: Write, call, fax or email Rogers. Let him know what the real Michigan priorities are!

DC Office:
133 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-2208
Phone: 202-225-4872 Fax: 202-225-5820

District Office - Lansing: (don't try to stop by - the door is always locked)
1327 East Michigan Avenue
Lansing, MI 48912
Phone: 517-702-8000 Toll-Free: 877-333-6453 Fax: 517-702-8642
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