Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Supreme Court To Decide Fate Of Obamacare This Week

As the world awaits the U.S. Supreme Court's Thursday decision, some openly question the timing of the decision.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida decision will be announced on Thursday; however, some are reducing the significance of the decision to "just another right wing attack on President Obama." But when the justices rule, the decision affects everyone and may change the lives of tens of millions of Americans.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) became law two years ago.  It is short of a total solution to the nation's health care problems, but is it an improvement over what existed 2 years ago with the hope of more benefits to follow?

Consider that the law has implemented the following changes:

•Ban on "lifetime limits" on the amount of benefits an insured person can collect.

•Insurers must justify decisions to increase insurance premiums.

•50,000 children age 18 and under have been able to obtain coverage despite pre-existing conditions.

•Millions of women now receive mammograms with no deductibles or copays.

•2.5 million children are now able to stay on their parents' health insurance policies until age 25.

•5.1 million seniors receive discounts on prescription drugs reducing the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole."

Yet the Rasmussen Report poll demonstrates that a majority of Americans feel they've haven't benefited at all from Obamacare.  Furthermore, twice as many voters say they've been hurt by the law as those who say they've been helped.   26% of voters polled claimed higher health insurance premiums, and layoffs from employers unable to afford insurance.  Only 13% who say they've been helped by the new law.  However, many of the law's biggest benefits haven't taken effect yet. If Obamacare survives, it won't be until 2014 when the following benefits accrue:

•Prohibition on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

•Prohibition on capping the annual amount that will be paid out on a patient's claims.

•Requiring insurers to cover the cost of experimental treatments.

•Tax credits for "low-income" consumers -- $43,000 annual income for an individual, or $88,000 for a family of four.

•Creation of a competitive market for insurance plans (insurance exchanges.)

•Health-care tax credits for small businesses.

•"Individual mandate" -- a requirement that everyone in America either buy a health insurance or pay a penalty. This is the most controversial of the provisions. The court must first decide whether health care is part of "interstate commerce." And second, it must decide whether Congress can use the Constitution's Commerce Clause to require Americans to buy insurance.  If the court finds in the negative on either point, then the individual mandate goes away.  The insurance industry will be saddled with a host of expensive benefits it must provide, but not enough money to pay for them. Insurance rates will drastically increase.

Our Supreme Court might end Obamacare this week.  But to some extent, health-care providers have already instituted new consumer protections to health plans and altered the mechanism for medical providers to get paid.  On the other hand, just watch how high the insurance companies jump for joy if Obamacare is declared unconstitutional. Then ask yourself, just why are the insurers so happy?

Update June 28, 2012:  Did you see the insurance companies dancing in the street?  No, that tells you how the Supreme Court ruled that the individual health insurance mandate is constitutional.  The Supreme Court upheld the central provision of President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act.  Chief Justice John Roberts' controlling opinion upheld the mandate as a tax, although concluded it was not valid as an exercise of Congress' commerce clause power. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan concurred. The majority concluded that the mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty, falls within Congress' power under the Constitution to "lay and collect taxes."

Chief Justice Roberts wrote: "The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause. That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress's power to tax."  However, on Medicaid expansion, the court upheld the expansion with a caveat that the federal government may not threaten the states that don't comply with the loss of their existing funding. Justice Ginsburg, wrote a separate opinion for the four democrat justices which indicates that they would have upheld the mandate under the commerce clause too. "Unlike the market for almost any other product or service, the market for medical care is one in which all individuals inevitably participate... Virtually every person residing in the United States, sooner or later, will visit a doctor or other health care professional."

The National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius follows the six hours of heated oral arguments held over three days in March. Chief Justice Roberts joined four Democratic appointees in a bipartisan upholding of the law. However, you can bet that GOP candidates and incumbents will focus the 2012 campaign upon repealing the law.

Update 7-3-13: The government will not require employers to provide health insurance for their workers until 2015, delaying a key provision of Obamacare by a year. At issue: Complex (and fairly recently introduced) rules and reporting requirements for businesses. Retailers and restaurateurs would have been effected the most by the mandate. AP On Changes.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jerry Sandusky Inaccurately Portrayed As Predatory Pedophile?

Some say Sandusky (photo courtesy of CBS) destroyed Joe Paterno's legend.  Others say Joe destroyed himself.  LINK.  Four days of testimony has revealed testimony of eight men from 18 to 28 years old which claimed Jerry Sandusky sexually abused them as children.  Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, denies any liability.  But will Sandusky himself take the stand in his own defense?  Our guess is no even though that increases his odds of conviction.

Sandusky's attorney, Joe Amendola, suggested he might.  But what could he possibly add to the audio recording of the television interview that the jury has already heard? Amendola's strategy is to create enough doubt in jurors' minds to avoid a conviction.  If it doesn't work, Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Have the accusers' stories changed over time so as to affect their credibility? At least six witnesses said they told incorrect or incomplete stories in early contacts with police.  Three testified that some of the details only came back to them in recent years. Nevertheless, the prosecutor seems to think the testimony is solid. Are the victims motivated by a chance to gain monetary compensation from civil suits?  This is always a possibility and one that is difficult to deal with from the prosecutors standpoint.

Amendola told the jury in opening statement, "Jerry, in my opinion, loves kids so much that he does things none of us would ever do." The question remains if Jerry Sandusky's love  of children causes him to break the law.  Child molestation cases are not new.  Michael Jackson was accused of inappropriate conduct with children.  LINK. Jackson won his case and apparently settled a civil lawsuit by paying an undisclosed sum. While it's possible Sandusky will win, how likely is it given the national media attention on this case? with all the testimony that Sandusky used gifts, the prestige of Penn State's football program in exchange for physical contact from a hand on the knee to fondling, repeated oral sex and in some cases rape, prosecutor Joe McGettigan has painted the picture of a predatory pedophile. Even with a strong case in chief, it may be difficult to erase such a powerful image in the minds of jurors.

Jerry Sandusky's lawyers have asked the judge to allow them to use out-of-court statements from  former Penn State president Graham Spanier and Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, two university administrators who are fighting criminal charges they lied to the Sandusky grand jury and did not properly report suspected child abuse. If permitted, that could help Sandusky attack the credibility of a witness who says he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a yet-unidentified boy in a team shower. Judge John Cleland has already allowed into evidence the contents of "Touched," "Sandusky's autobiography.  Allowing the entire book prevents misleading exerps and quotes from being taken out of context in order to support a false impression. 

Sandusky's lawyers have argued that Sandusky's peculiar behaviors are evidence of "histrionic personality disorder" on Sandusky's part. During Voire dire, Sandusky's lawyers asked potential jurors about ties to members of Joe Paterno's family.  It remains unclear who if any one will testify in Sandusky's defense. The prosecutor's case should wrap up this week. In the mean time, Jerry Sandusky is to be presumed innocent unless otherwise proven in a court of law.

Update 6-22-12:  As the Sandusky jury deliberates, Monsignor William Lynn is the first U.S. church official convicted of a crime for how he handled sex-abuse accusations. The judge revoked Lynn into custody after he was convicted of one count of endangerment. Lynn was acquitted of another endangerment count and a conspiracy charge. Lynn has been on leave from the church since last year. The alleged conduct occurred while he was secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. The jury could not agree on a verdict for Lynn's co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy.

Monsignor William Lynn was accused of facilitating by telling parishes their priests were being removed for health reasons and then sending them to unsuspecting churches.  Lynn, 61, had faced about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of all three counts. He will likely serve 3 1/2 to seven years in prison.

Bevilacqua had the final say on what to do with priests accused of abuse.  He also allegedly ordered the shredding of a 1994 list that warned him that the archdiocese had three diagnosed pedophiles, a dozen confirmed predators and at least 20 more possible abusers. With the verdict, jurors concluded that prosecutors failed to show that Lynn was part of a conspiracy to move predator priests. The jury, however, did find that Lynn endangered the victim of Edward Avery, who pleaded guilty before trial to a 1999 sexual assault. Lynn had helped steer Avery into an inpatient treatment program run by the archdiocese. Avery was later sent to live in a northeast Philadelphia parish, where the altar boy was assaulted.  Avery is now serving a 2-1/2- to five-year prison sentence.

Lynn's lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, said in closing arguments that Lynn should not be held responsible for the Church's sins. He suggested his client was a scapegoat for the scandal.  Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said in his closing that it can take years for victims to come forward. "That's what's so scary about this. We have no idea how many victims are out there."  

In the meantime, expect the Lynn conviction to be appealed.

Sandusky Update 6-23-12:  Guilty on 45 of 48 counts! The foreman, Juror #4, was a gray-haired middle-aged man who hammered down the long verdict with an ere command of the courtroom. Guilty of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse,  indecent assault and endangering the welfare of children. Forty-five times justice  rang out throughout the courtroom.   There were only three charges Sandusky was acquitted on.  There remains an excellent chance that the ex-coach will spend the rest of his life behind bars.  Who knows who may else follow if they participated in the cover up.  We know from the Lynn case above that  those who cover up child molestation may also face the wrath of justice! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Auburn Shootings Leave Many Questions and Few Answers

Three dead, another fighting for his life; why?  Former Auburn offensive lineman, Ed Christian, 20, former  fullback Ladarious Phillips, 20, and Demario A. Pitts, 20 all were shot and killed in Alabama.
Auburn junior offensive lineman Eric Mack, 20, was also shot and is being treated at Eastern Alabama Medical Clinic. A fourth young man, John Robertson, 20, was in critical condition at UAB Hospital in Birmingham.  A fifth man, Xavier Moss, 19, was shot but was treated and released.

Why were these men who were at a pool party at the University Heights apartment complex shot? The brutal shooting is supposedly not related to football. Police are looking for answers and perhaps Desmonte Leonard, age 22, has the answers.  Three warrants charging Desmonte Leonard with capital murder have been signed.  U.S. Marshals have joined the search for Leonard. Desmonte has been arrested twice in the past on gun charges. He has also been sued twice for child support, the latest suit having been filed on Friday.

Early reports indicate that the shooting happened after several men got in a fight over a woman.  Police apparently don't know why the party was being held or what sparked the fight.However, Turquorius Vines, 23, was present at the pool party Saturday evening at the University Heights apartments.  He was with one of his friends, Demario Pitts. Vines says he and his friend were approached by two other men who started arguing with them over a woman. Vines said he had never met these men before.  Vines apparently punched one of the men.  Pitts hit at least one of the men over the head with a bottle. Then, one or both of the men started shooting.  Pitts was shot and killed.  Two other men were hit by gunfire according to Vines.

Leonard fled the scene in a white Chevrolet.  He abandoned the vehicle on the way back to Montgomery, Desmonte Leonard, pictured above, is considered armed and dangerous.  If anyone knows why Leonard went on the shooting spree, they are not publicly commenting. The identity of a possible second suspect has not been revealed.  In the mean time, Eric Mack is expected to make a full recovery.

Keep in mind, Desmonte Leonard, like all suspects, is to be presumed innocent until otherwise proven in a court of law.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Catalina Clouser Under the Influence Or Just Having A Senior Moment At the Age of 19?

Neglectful? Thoughtless?  Selfish?  Do these terms accurately describe Catalina Clouser, the woman who was arrested Saturday in Phoenix after she accidentally drove away with her five-week-old son in a child seat on the roof of her car?  Fortunately her child fell off the car in an intersection of 45th Avenue and Cholla Street and was not harmed. But this 19 year-old mom was arrested on child abuse and driving under the influence charges. The child was placed in the custody of state Child Protective Services.

Clouser and her boyfriend had allegedly been smoking marijuana in a park. When the couple left to buy beer, the boyfriend was stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence. Clouser drove to a friend's home and allegedly smoked additional marijuana.  Clouser left around midnight with the baby asleep in the car seat. However, she apparently placed the infant on top of the Ford Focus and then drove off.  Closer did not realize that the baby was missing until she arrived home. Clouser then called her friends and asked them to trace the route she had taken. The friends ran into the officers who had already found Clouser's son. Clouser arrived at the scene and was arrested.
Fortunately, Clouser's 5 week-old son was not injured. Closer, like all who are charged with a crime are to be presumed innocent unless otherwise proved in a court of law.