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Kleeb: Restoring Balance to Health Care

The last 20 years have seen amazing advances in medical science. As a result of new diagnostic technologies, new treatments and new drugs, people our living longer and more comfortably than ever before. But there is another side to this coin, and that is rising costs that are making it increasingly difficult for Americans to afford access to care.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, total health care expenses in this country are projected to increase from $1.55 trillion in 2002 to $3.34 trillion by 2013--an average increased more 10 percent per year. Not surprisingly, health care insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays are also on the rise, increasing at a rate as much as six times the rate of inflation.

More and more insured individuals struggle to pay their monthly medical expenses. More and more small business employers cannot afford to offer health care coverage at all, a trend that is particularly alarming when one considers that small businesses accounted for 75 percent of new jobs created between 1990 and 1995. The number of uninsured Americans has grown by 6 million in just five years to reach its present level of 46 million. Fully 80 percent of the uninsured are in working families.

There is an urgent need to restore balance to the American health care system. We cannot allow the United States to follow the path of Latin American countries, where world-class hospitals open their doors only to the wealthy, while run-down and over-crowded public hospitals attempt--with limited success--to administer health care to the majority of the population. But, unless we act now to change course, this is exactly where we are headed.

The solutions to these problems are not as complex as they have been portrayed to be by Washington politicians. There is a tendency among policy makers to adopt an ‘all or nothing' stance around health care. Some say the government should take over the whole system. And we have only to look to Europe to see what a disaster that would be. Others say we should do away with all government ‘interference' and let the free market reign. And we have only to look at our present number of uninsured, and under-insured, to understand that this is not a realistic solution either.

There are practical steps that we can take right now to control health care costs and expand insurance coverage. Did you know, for example, that administrative costs (paper work) make up more than 7 percent of health care costs? These costs are growing faster than virtually any other component of health care expenses. If we make a one time investment in shifting to a comprehensive electronic record keeping system, we could save billions of dollars per year. The costs of hospitalization and doctor visits would, in turn, be reduced.

Or did you know that of the 46 million uninsured, more than half are in households headed by someone who is self-employed or who works for a small business (fewer than 100 employees)? Legislation currently working its way through Congress would allow small businesses to band together to purchase health care coverage for their employees at more reasonable and sustainable rats. Such a move would help guarantee that more small businesses can offer quality health care coverage to employees in the years ahead.

Through these and other innovative ideas, we can begin to get our health care system under control. But first, there has to be the will in Congress to take on the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies. Today, CEOs are using their fabulous profits to pay an army of lobbyists to whisper in the ears of our Congressman and Senators. And, unfortunately, the tactic has been all too successful.

If I am elected to Congress, I will put communities first. I will fight for measures that can reverse the alarming trends in our health care industry--before it is too late.

-Scott Kleeb

This is the first in a series of guest blog posts touching on various aspects of health care. Scott Kleeb is running for Congress in Nebraska's 3rd District.

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Happy Blogoversary, UNO College Dems

If you haven't had a chance yet, please stop over at the UNO College Democrats Blog and help celebrate their one year blogaversary.

Perhaps being the second most active blog in Nebraska (nice try guys), they've done some great analysis and research over the last year on a variety of issues and candidates--as well as re-energize the College Democrats on the University of Nebraska-Omaha campus.

So please, go wish them a Happy Blogoversary, comment on one of their "24 posts to remember", and join the blogosphere movement.


Your Friends at the NDP

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Poll Results: Health Care

Two days ago, we asked Nebraska Democrats to become active in the political process by telling us what issues they want to learn more about. Of the eight options we provided, health care was the overwhelming issue that Nebraskans want to discuss.

Over the next two weeks, the Blog for Nebraska will feature discussions from candidates, elected officials, and other experts about various aspects of health care. Featured guests will include Congressional Candidates Jim Esch and Scott Kleeb, The Nebraska Appleseed Center, Rich Lombardi, and NAPE-AFSCME Local #61. More blog posts from other special guests are also in the works.

We are creating a new webpage devoted specifically to health care issues. Starting tomorrow, there will be a new button on the homepage and in the Communications Center linking you to all the information you need to know. The page will be a work in progress as the content will be added everyday.

Health care is a broad issue, so please let us know what aspects you want to hear more about. Comment on this thread, and the health care threads to come, so that we and our panel of guests can respond to your ideas and concerns.

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Step by Step Across the 2nd CD

It's a year until the 2006 election, but 2nd District Congressional Candidate Jim Esch was busy taking "walking the district" to a whole new level. He walked 30 miles across the entire 2nd CD from the Platte River near Valley to the Western Heritage Museum in downtown Omaha. During the 11 hour trek, Jim met lots of voters and caused quite the stir. Esch knows he has a battle on his hands against Lee Terry, but this effort shows Esch's commitment to running a hard campaign filled with new ideas.

To read more about Jim's Election Day journey, check out the article from the Omaha World Herald and the radio story from NET.

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The Road to November 2006

On the evening of November 15th, folks from around the country will open up their homes to friends and neighbors for a night of planning and action--the Democratic Party's National Organizing Kickoff.

This is a great opportunity for Nebraska Democrats to show the rest of the country that we are serious about strengthening the Party. If you are interested in hosting an Organizing Kickoff meeting or know someone that would be, it's easy to get started right away:

Hosts of local Organizing Kickoff meetings can download all of the materials for a successful meeting. Information will include a briefing on our party-building efforts nationally and locally, a survey of the political landscape in Nebraska, and information about opportunities to take action locally.

The DNC Chairman, Governor Howard Dean, will also play a part, joining all of the meetings that night in a nationwide conference call.

With little more than a year before the 2006 elections, it's time for each of us to take responsibility for the Democratic organization in our neighborhoods. We have to be organized to get our message out--we need a network in place now not only to persuade voters, but to activate them as well.

It's up to you to make sure that everyone in your neighborhood is plugged in and ready to do as much as they can. Sign up to host your local Organizing Kickoff event now:

To make an impact in 2006, Democrats need to organize everywhere. You asked for change and the Party took the unprecedented step of hiring organizers early to build support across the America--including right here in Nebraska!

The event you host will bring everyone up to speed on our progress, our opportunities and the work ahead. The results of Election Day 2006 are based on the work we do now, and the meeting you host creates the road map for a year of sustained commitment until the polls close.

Host a local Organizing Kickoff meeting and make sure that our party is in a position to change things next year:

You'll be hearing more about these meetings in the coming weeks. Thank you for your time and your commitment to the idea that together we can move Nebraska forward.

See you on the 15th,

Steve Achelpohl
Chairman, Nebraska Democratic Party

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Open Thread

"Moral values: From what I understand, if you cut out all the passages in the Bible where Jesus talks about the poor, about helping out the least among us, you'd have the perfect container to smuggle Rush Limbaugh's drugs in." -- Al Franken, from his new book -- "Truth (With Jokes)"

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"I'm trapped now. Please rescue me."

"I'm trapped now. Please rescue me"

"Can I quit now? Can I come home?"

"Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?" Michael Brown emailed after a FEMA worker in New Orleans told him the situation was "past critical."

The emails released documenting Brown's conversations during the Katrina disaster show the appalling truth about Brown's inability to lead an effective disaster response. Brown was busy being consulted on what to wear and was slow to respond to requests for help. Some of the emails even make it sound like he didn't know how to delegate workers and get supplies to those who needed them. I guess you don't have to worry about saving lives when you are a self proclaimed "fashion god."

You can read many of the emails at

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59% Say Resign

For months, Regent David Hergert has justified staying in office by claiming that his constituents do not want him to resign. However, a new scientific poll conducted by the Daily Nebraskan and Research Associates found that 59% of the people in his district believe Hergert should resign. If he does not resign, 47% believe he should be removed from office, while 29% were undecided.

Hergert immediately questioned the poll's validity saying the numbers contradicted a call-in poll the Scottsbluff Star Herald conducted. There are two flaws to his argument. The first is that the paper never conducted a call-in poll (it was an online poll and did not specifically ask if Hergert should resign.) The second is that neither a call-in poll or online poll are in any way, shape or form a valid poll. They are voluntary and target only a specific audience.

Kudos to the DN for taking on such an ambitious story. I recommend everyone check out the article and the rest of the poll results.

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No Treat for Nebraskans

It was almost a Halloween treat for Nebraskans. It turns out the numbers ranking Nebraska 50th in economic growth were only preliminary and have been adjusted. Iowa is still in the top ten but fell to (a still impressive) 8th in economic growth.

Where did Nebraska end up once the numbers were adjusted?


The Nebraska economy only grew 1.5-percent in 2004, just barely edging out Michigan, which only grew its economy 1.2-percent.

If you go to the website for the Bureau of Economic Analysis and scroll down a little bit, you will see a map clearly detailing how each state performed. Almost every state economy around us grew at least twice as much as ours did.

This is the scary reality Republican leadership has carved out for Nebraskans.

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Congressional Halloween Costumes

From the New Nebraska Network

It must be Halloween because Nebraska's Republican Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry and Tom Osborne have been playing dress-up for the local press. In this magical time of year when children become ghosts, goblins, and fairy princesses, Fortenberry and Osborne are trying to make-believe that they have the ounce of spine or independence to stand-up to their party masters and do what's right for Nebraska, particularly its rural communities.

Frankly, they're not fooling anyone.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:

Nebraska GOP Reps. Tom Osborne and Jeff Fortenberry managed to soften the budget-cutting blow when they recently met face-to-face with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and delivered an ultimatum, Osborne said.

‘We were prepared to vote no," Osborne said Friday."
"We got the best deal we could."

The House and Senate are working on budget-cutting bills that seek savings of $35 billion to help pay for hurricane relief. Agriculture spending in the House bill was reduced from $4.2 billion to $3.7 billion in proposed cuts.

Osborne and Fortenberry, members of the House Agriculture Committee, said the change they negotiated reduced farmers' subsidy cuts from 3 percent to 1 percent. That would cost the average Nebraska farm $200 a year in lost federal subsidies, Osborne said.

Besides subsidies, cuts are proposed for conservation and other rural development programs.

The Senate is working on a bill proposing $3 billion in cuts. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has complained that agriculture programs are being cut more than is fair compared with other federal spending.

They got the best deal they could? They were prepared to defy Hastert and Tom DeLay? Who are they kidding?

The average subsidy cut is not what's at issue here. The question, as always, is WHO faces these cuts. It certainly should not be the family farmer, not while large agricultural congrlomerates are still receiving unlimited payments. And, what of this bill's cuts to the food stamp program…or is that tucked away in some other Republican travesty against working-class and rural families?

Frankly, this article is a press release -- nothing more -- a form letter from the Republican leadership to provide some political cover to their blindly loyal footsoldiers in the Midwest. I expect most every Congressional hyper-partisan who is supposed to be representing rural America -- not the Republican Party -- is doing the same song and dance about having done what they could….everything, that is, but voting "NO" as they damn well should.

This is the cost of Nebraska voters' allegiance to the Republican party. They will continue to be taken for granted -- their interests neglected and their goodwill exploited. The trick's on us. Happy Halloween!

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