Friday, November 19, 2021

The “Medicare Advantage” Plan to Kill Real Medicare

The Hartmann Report, by Thom Hartmann: If the corporate health insurance industry can move more than half of senior Americans off traditional Medicare and onto their corporate for profit "Advantage" plans, it’ll provide the political cover to kill off Medicare altogether — and they’re nearly there now.

In 2003, George W Bush set up the destruction and privatization of Medicare. The end of “real Medicare” is getting closer every day, and Congress and Medicare’s administrators are doing nothing.

Last Friday the Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) announced a 14.5% increase in Medicare Part B premiums, raising the monthly payments by the lowest-income Medicare recipients from $148.50 a month to $170.10 a month next year.

If you’re trying to live on the bottom rung of Social Security (about $365/month), that’s consequential. People with Medigap policies are also seeing their policy price rises announced this month.

This price hike, though, raises the larger issue of what's happening to Medicare itself and whether the entire system may be out of business in a few years, in part because our government is being robbed blind by all these so-called “Advantage” plans.

It all began with George W. Bush, who’d spent most of his life openly and proudly campaigning to privatize Medicare and Social Security.

In 2003 Congress and the Bush administration rolled out a privatization option, allowing private for-profit insurance companies to sell policies branded as “Medicare Advantage” to gullible seniors who think they’re buying the actual Medicare Parts A and B. As a result, today companies eager to rip off seniors are flooding the market, particularly with TV advertising.

The simple fact is that Medicare Advantage is hurting traditional Medicare, because that system is paying the insurance companies, in most cases, far more than it would be paying to simply cover the costs of its regular Medicare recipients.

Biden Tells USPS Board Chairman Bloom, You’re Fired

Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate two new members to the United States Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors to replace Governors Ron Bloom and John Barger when their terms expire in December.

  • Daniel Tangherlini, Nominee for Governor, United States Postal Service
  • Derek Kan, Nominee for Governor, United States Postal Service

The Washington Post first broke the news early Friday morning that Pres. Joe Biden would not reappoint United States Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors Chairman Ron A. Bloom to a new seven year term. Bloom’s term as a board member is set to expire December 8, 2021. Biden will instead nominate a new person to take his place on the board.

In the first months of his administration Biden filled three open seats on the U.S. Postal Service’s board of governors. Even with Biden's three appointees — Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general; Amber McReynolds, the CEO of Vote at Home, an organization that promotes voting by mail; and Anton Hajjar, the former general counsel for the American Postal Workers Union — the majority of the board members, all appointed by Pres. Trump, by a margin of two, support Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's moves to lower USPS service levels and increase costs to mail letters and packages. But that’s all about to change.

Bloom, a conservative Wall Street Democrat, was nominated to the Postal Service Board of Governors by Pres. Trump, confirmed by the Senate and began his service Aug. 20, 2019. Bloom served the remainder of a then vacant seat seven-year term that expired Dec. 8, 2020, and is currently serving a one year holdover term. He was elected on Feb. 9, 2021 by his fellow Trump appointed Governors to serve as the 24th Chairman of the Board of Governors.

Bloom shares responsiblity with Postmaster General DeJoy for reducing mail service levels and hiking mail rates, actions DeJoy began to implement in the summer of 2020, immediately after then Pres. Donald Trump appointed him to the position.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Time for Pres. Biden and Congress to Save the USPS

It’s no secret how much the USPS has been struggling in recent years. With the rise of the Internet and ubiquitous email drastically cutting snail mail volumes and stamp sales revenues, coupled with a disastrous 2006 Congressional mandate forcing the agency to annually contribute huge payments into postal employees’ retirement and health benefits to fully fund it 50 years into the future, the USPS has been running annual operational deficits most of this century. Since 2006, the postal service has been handling less snail mail year after year, and it’s been losing more and more money. In 2019, the USPS handled about a third less mail than in 2006.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy saw these annual deficits and created a 10-plan to alleviate them, though it may not be the plan that will actually alleviate deficits. In fact, DeJoy’s new plan could have several negative effects, such as longer and less reliable mail delivery times, higher mail service rates and a larger workload for existing postal workers.

DeJoy’s plan to cut service levels while raising the cost to use USPS services appears more likely to push the USPS into a death spiral. And while Donald Trump famously feuded with the Postal Service, Republicans have targeted the postal institution for privatization for a long time.

As The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman noted in an August 2020 column, the reason for this is likely that the USPS represents everything Republicans hate, and getting rid of it serves a goal they all tend to share.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

USPS Board of Governors Reappoint Ron Bloom Chairman

On November 10, 2021, the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) nine member board of governors, dominated by six of former President Donald Trump’s appointees, reappointed Trump appointee Ron A. Bloom as Board Chairman for another year. The problem is that Bloom’s term as a board member is set to expire December 8, 2021.

Bloom was nominated to the Postal Service Board of Governors by President Donald Trump, confirmed by the Senate and began his service Aug. 20, 2019. Bloom served the remainder of a seven-year term that expired Dec. 8, 2020. When Pres. didn't officially reappoint Bloom for another full term, or appoint someone else for the full term, the USPS Board voted themselves voted to appoint Bloom for a one year holdover term. He was then elected by his fellow Trump appointed Governors, on Feb. 9, 2021, to serve as the 24th Chairman of the Board of Governors.

The Board's action to reappoint Bloom to the Chair position for another year was opposed by Pres. Joe Biden’s three appointees to the board. The six Trump appointee board members refused to allow Biden's three appointees to voice their objections to Bloom’s reappointment as chairman, ruling that their objections were not in order.

The Trump appointees also reappointed current vice chairman, Roman Martinez IV, to an additional one-year term. Martinez, an investment banker who was also appointed by Trump, is serving a seven-year term that will not expire until 2024.

None of the governors discussed the significance of their vote to appoint Bloom to the chair position, however, it clearly signals they intend to reappoint Bloom to another one year holdover term on December 8, if Biden does not appoint someone else to replace Bloom.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Rep. Katie Porter Explains Why Post Master Louis DeJoy Must Go

During a House oversight committee hearing in Chicago, Friday, while questioning a representative of the USPS, Rep. Katie Porter referenced USPS audit statistics to highlight a definite and dramatic decline in on-time mail deliveries from 92% on-time to 61% on-time since the summer of 2020. Porter was leading up to asking the USPS representative about how delivery times have grown significantly slower since Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2020.

"I'm a professor, and I used to do a lot of grading," said Porter. "And 92 is considered widely like an A-minus, 80 is considered hanging on, hanging on to the lowest possible B. 60 percent is at best a D-minus. The Postal Service delivers 48 percent of the world's mail. It is an institution, it is a civic treasure. And we let it get all the way, what you found, is we let it get all the way down to that D-minus level."

As Porter said on Twitter, "On-time mail delivery has plummeted under Postmaster Louis DeJoy—forcing veterans to wait longer for prescriptions, seniors to scramble to pay bills without their Social Security checks, and communities to feel less connected."

The audit found that during the spring of 2020, mail delivery was right around 92 percent — that is 92 percent of the mail got there within the standard of on time,” said Porter in the hearing, holding up a whiteboard displaying the data. “That dropped to 80 percent by the fall of 2020, and by January of 2021 was hovering around 61 percent. I realize this has gone up somewhat since then, but I wanted to ask you, when did Mr. DeJoy take over as postmaster? Do you know?”

“The summer of 2020,” said the witness.

President Donald Trump appointed Dejoy postmaster general for the U.S. Postal Service in May 2020. At the time he held interests of at least $70m in companies that compete w/the Postal Service. Documentation published in October 2021 show that DeJoy had conflicts of interest relating to the company where he served as a chief executive, XPO Logistics, as well as 13 other major companies that have relationships with or compete with the Postal Service.

Rep. Porter is a member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform which has been investigating declining delivery standards at USPS since Mr DeJoy’s appointment.