I hope everyone has taken time today to think about the men and women who have risked their lives serving our country as well as those who have given their lives. So far, 24 Nebraskans have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, including three in the last week. You can read a statement made from NDP State Chair Steve Achelpohl in the Press Release section of the Communications Center.
In honor of Veterans Day, we have focused our attention on veterans' health care. Hopefully you have already read the blog post from Senator Nelson who is one of the nation's staunchest supporters of veterans benefits.
I have also posted two new talking points memos focusing on veterans that can be found in the Communications Center and on the Health Care page. Senate Republicans voted five times this year against adequate funding for veterans' health care. Yet at the same time, 25,000 veterans of the Iraq war have returned home and are forced to sit on waiting lists to get medical attention in VA hospitals. On top of that, veterans are forced to wait six months to two years to receive disability compensation. Read more facts in the talking points Chuck Hagel and the Senate GOP Get Failing Grade on Vets Issues and Republicans Break Their Promise to Nebraska's Men and Women in Uniform.
Since coming to Washington I have taken a special interest in issues affecting health care for our veterans. Combat in Iraq and Afghanistan has only served to increase my involvement in these issues. When a country sends its young into harms way, they deserve the best of medical care.
One of the heartbreaking health issues that we recently dealt with in the U.S. Senate had to do with Americans who have been wounded in action. When those who are injured return home many will require modifications to their houses to accommodate their physical limitations. Until recently the government would pay for such modifications only if the wounded person owned a home. The sad reality is that many of todays wounded are young enough never to have owned a home. They may return to their parent
Today is the official kick-off of our in-depth focus on health care. We will be posting new information everyday on the blog and will cross-post and archive the information on a new section of our site devoted to health care. You can access that page by clicking here.
3rd District Congressional Candidate Scott Kleeb is our first guest blogger. Tomorrow, Senator Ben Nelson will post about veterans' health care.
The Center for American Progress released new talking points on health care today based on two new studies comparing America's health care system to those in other countries. Former Senator Tom Daschle conducted one study and the other is from the Commonwealth Institute. According to the findings, the U.S. health care system ranks 37th in the world, and the U.S. has a higher infant mortality rate then 41 other countries. I was particularly enlightened by the Daschle study which debunked several myths about the American health care system. I also appreciated that he did not ignore some of the good things the American system has to offer.
You can also find talking points about the 46 million Americans living without health insurance by clicking here.
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.
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.
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.
Your Friends at the NDP
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.
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.
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,
Chairman, Nebraska Democratic Party
"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)"
"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 cnn.com.