April 2008
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Month April 2008

UMass Law

I was pretty bummed in 2005 when the Republican-packed UMass Board of Trustees voted down  a very reasonable proposal to create an affordable public law school. They even floated the idea of free tuition for students who committed to be public defenders for a year after graduation. While it may be too late to benefit me, I’m nonetheless glad to see the effort revitalized by a Worcester city councilor. With a Democratic governor and an ex-Worcester mayor as Lt. Gov. I think this plan  might have legs this time around. Massachusetts is one in six states without a public law school. That bastion of economic progressiveness, the State of Arkansas, has two. I believe a UMass Law school would go a long way in promoting market access to those who cannot afford  to attend private law school and would expand the scope of public interest attorneys whom would remain in the state.  

How the Rev. Wright Controversy Actually Helps Barack Obama.

(And I use the word “controversy” loosely.)  Here is how it actually helps Obama.  First, it should convince anyone out there who still thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim that he is not.  (I am offended that it should even matter, but that is for another discussion.)  I bet there were still a lot of ignorant people up until yesterday who still thought Obama is a Muslim.  They would have to be a moron (and hopefully not a voter) to still believe that today.   Second, it has given Barack Obama an opportunity to repudiate Rev. Wright more forcefully than he did before.  Obama’s previous response to the original Wright feeding frenzy may not have been enough to convince the voters he needs to win over in order to win the Presidency, particular Reagan Democrats.  I realize this is a stretch, but it sure is going to be interesting to see how it all plays out over the next week.            

John McCain’s health care disaster

John McCain rolled out his health care plan yesterday. For the tens of millions of Americans who currently receive their benefits through their employers it promises to be a total disaster, as the average family’s premiums will more than double. From the New York Times:

Mr. McCain’s health care plan would shift the emphasis from insurance provided by employers to insurance bought by individuals, to foster competition and drive down prices. To do so he is calling for eliminating the tax breaks that currently encourage employers to provide health insurance for their workers, and replacing them with $5,000 tax credits for families to buy their own insurance….

Democrats and some experts said the proposal might lead some employers to stop offering health insurance, and questioned whether the tax credit would cover the cost of private insurance.

There is no “might” about it, the proposal will cause many employers to drop health care insurance altogether or significantly roll back their offerings. The tax break that employers get is the most significant incentive for them to offer insurance to their employees. Without it, the only incentives to an employer are intangible. For instance, more competitive benefits help attract better workers, and healthier employees are more productive. But how many companies will continue to shell out $7,000-8,000 per family per year for coverage if they are not able to deduct those costs? Probably not that many.

Based on the most recent statistics, the tax credit will not nearly cover the cost of private insurance. According to the National Coalition on Health Care, the total cost of the average family health insurance plan is $12,100. Of that the average family pays $3,300 in premiums with the rest covered by the employer. Under McCain’s plan, that average family would receive a $5,000 tax credit to offset the cost of the plan, leaving the family to cover the remaining $7,100 in premiums.

The average family who pays $275 per month for health insurance would see their premiums rise to $592 per month under McCain’s plan, a 115% increase.

Trailing the Readiness Project

Looks like the Governor has started trailing some of what the initial phase of the Readiness Project is likely to encompass.  I think he’s going about this well.   He’s bringing together stakeholders to develop a shared vision of where we could take education over the next decade and setting out what it will take to get there, including what it may take in funding.  And then on the basis of that vision and a realistic look at evidence and costs, is then opening up a wider dialogue on how to shape a 21st century education package, with free access from kindergarten through the first years of college.  This from an AP story in the Herald this morning: A group of educators and others serving on the governor’s Readiness Project are trying to determine the total cost of educating a child from pre-kindergarten through state-funded community college and other higher education. Gov. Deval Patrick told school superintendents participating in a Statehouse lobbying day Tuesday that he, lawmakers and education interest groups will then use that number to debate how much of that cost the state can afford. The governor says he expects the first recommendations from the Readiness Project members […]

What does it mean when a bill is “Discharged to the committee on JUDICIARY”

I am tracking a bill and noticed that it moved from the Joint Committee of Policy and Steerting to Discharged to the committee on JUDICIARY. What does this mean? Can anyone help?

Stepping up the pace, Gov. Patrick nominates three to judgeships

Here is the link to the press release: http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=go… For more information: Contact: Kyle Sullivan   Cyndi Roy   Becky Deusser   (617) 725-4025   The fact that Governor Patrick recognized the need to appoint a Probate and Family Court judge as quickly as possible in Middlesex County is much appreciated.  That Probate and Family Court is the highest volume in the state – down by eight family service officers [also called probation officers] who mediate and assist pro se litigants [those without attorneys].   In today’s tough economic times, 80% of those appearing in Middlesex Probate and Family Court seeking divorces, or custody are pro se, according to the Honorable Peter DiGangi, the presiding judge of that court. GOVERNOR PATRICK ANNOUNCES NOMINATION OF THREE TOP ATTORNEYS TO KEY JUDICIAL POSITIONS BOSTON – Thursday, April 29, 2008 – Governor Patrick announced today the nominations of a highly respected federal prosecutor to the Superior Court, a specialist in domestic relations to the Middlesex County Division of the Probate and Family Court, and a seasoned juvenile court practitioner to the Bristol County Division of the Juvenile Court.   Timothy Q. Feeley, 58, a Marblehead resident and graduate of the University of Notre […]

Op Ed by Elizabeth Edwards calling for real coverage by the MSM in the NYT #6 on the hits parade

I heard Elizabeth Edwards speak about this topic earlier this month in Cambridge at the Kennedy School of Government.  The New York Times has now published her Op Ed on the topic of the failure of the main stream media to cover the issues, and the dumbing down of journalism so as to treat the presidential primary race like a soap opera.  

News is different from other programming on television or other content in print. It is essential to an informed electorate. And an informed electorate is essential to freedom itself. But as long as corporations to which news gathering is not the primary source of income or expertise get to decide what information about the candidates “sells,” we are not functioning as well as we could if we had the engaged, skeptical press we deserve.

And the future of news is not bright. Indeed, we’ve heard that CBS may cut its news division, and media consolidation is leading to one-size-fits-all journalism. The state of political campaigning is no better: without a press to push them, candidates whose proposals are not workable avoid the tough questions. All of this leaves voters uncertain about what approach makes the most sense for them. Worse still, it gives us permission to ignore issues and concentrate on things that don’t matter. (Look, the press doesn’t even think there is a difference!)

What “sells” is a narrative composed of soap opera like trivia.  The title of Elizabeth’s Op Ed is “Bowling 1, Health Care 0″.  To read the entire Op Ed, go to:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04…

This issue really matters.  Without an informed electorate, that votes, democracy itself is at risk.

 

Is My Doctor Going to Fire Me?

I fear that my primary physician is trying to push me and many of his patients out of his practice.  Of course, given the state of our health care system, who can blame him and his partners at the practice?  

Primary care doctors are at the bottom of the insurance/Medicare food chain, receiving the lowest reimbursement rates compared to their “specialist” colleagues.  So they have to focus their professional energy into creating a patient-mill, seeing patients at a rate of one very ten minutes so that they can meet the expenses of their practice AND obtain a similar income level of their “specialist” colleagues.  No doubt this takes a real physical and mental toll that leads to professional burnout.

This is but one problem in the ever-complex health care dilemma our society wrestles with.  Without reforms and solutions, the “market” is attempting address this problem for some primary care physicians and the results will have horrendous implications for society as a whole.  Creating a system of primary care “have” patients and primary care “have nots”.

Finally Obama is “Outraged”…gee, whiz…epiphany!

Obama says he is “outraged” by “appalling” comments made by Rev. Wright.    For more information…http://www.politico.com File under: late epiphany

Vote for my friend Diane’s Obama ad :-)

From the Shameless Promotion Department. My friend Diane’s ad has been selected as one of the 15 finalists for the Moveon.org national Obama ad campaign competition: over 1,000 ads submitted and over 4.5 million votes cast so far. Click on the ad to go to the voting page where you can rate it and the other finalists.