Freedom of speech and expression is one of the highest U.S. values, constitutionally protected from interference by our government. Indeed, it is the very first provision of our Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court today, under Chief Justice Roberts, stands firm on free speech, at least most of the time.
Just a couple of years ago the Court struck down a federal law making it illegal to claim war medals not actually earned. And federal law limiting corporate spending on elections was struck down in the highly controversial Citizens United case. There the Court chose the right of free speech over the statutory goal of protecting against the corrosive power of money in elections. In his new book, Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution, Harvard professor Laurence Tribe credits the Roberts Court with a strong bias toward free speech.
But even the Roberts Court can be frightened into suppressing rights of free expression: Since 9-11, our government has implemented bans against the provision of “material support or resources” to any terrorist group. An American human rights group sued to confirm its right to assist humanitarian activities in Kurdistan and Tamil. The groups through which it funneled aid had bloody histories and were designated foreign terrorist organizations by the State Department. The government argued, and Justice Roberts agreed, that humanitarian aid could unintentionally free up funds to be used for terrorism. The Court upheld the law.
— article and photos by Bonnie Squires
The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia held another one of its world-class events last week, as Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received the Liberty Medal before an audience of 1,300 people.
The medal honors men and women of courage and conviction, who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. Secretary Clinton was recognized for her advocacy of women’s rights and human rights around the globe.
More after the jump.
(Left to right) Bill Sasso, Esq., Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Jeffrey Rosen, CEO of the National Constitution Center, each praised Hillary for her life-long activities for the common good.
ABC News Anchor and Correspondent Elizabeth Vargas served as the mistress of ceremonies, and presenters included:
- Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, chairman of the National Constitution Center’s Board of Trustees;
- Dr. Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania and National Constitution Center Trustee;
- Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter;
- No Labels Co-Founder Mark McKinnon;
- Journalist and Human Rights Advocate Roxana Saberi; and
- National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen, who presented the medal to Secretary Clinton.
Appearing in video tributes during the ceremony were:
- Former British Prime Minister and previous Liberty Medal recipient Tony Blair;
- Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan;
- tennis legend Billie Jean King;
- actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen;
- News Political Commentator Cokie Roberts, and
- other friends, sponsors and dignitaries.
Governor Bush and Secretary Clinton were both gracious in their remarks about each other, even though it is possible that in 2016 each of them will represent their respective political parties in the presidential election.
Dr. Amy Gutmann, Penn president, who chaired the Liberty Medal selection committee, gave a rousing speech about Hillary Cllinton’s accomplishments in gaining equality for women and minorities around the world. Gutmann also got excited when she predicted that Clinton would become the first woman president of the U.S.
(Left to right) Marciarose Shestack, Bob Rovner, Esq., Commissioner Josh Shapiro and his wife Lori Shapiro, and Bill Sasso, Esq., host of the reception.
(Left to right) Judge Marjorie O. Rendell, Tom Knox and Anne Ewers, CEO of the Kimmel Center, joined hundreds of guests at the President’s Reception.
(Left to right) Sandy and Steve Sheller, Esq., were delighted to talk with former Governr Ed Rendell.
(Left to right Patrons Barbara and Len Sylk are joined by Diane Semingson.
Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler speaks to her friend Dr. Afaf Meleis, dean of the Penn School of of Nursing.
— by David Streeter
The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today slammed the House Republican Caucus for continuing their quixotic campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act — the same bill supported by the vast majority of American Jews and deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:
This effort — the 31st such vote by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives — proves once again that Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) care significantly more about politics than policy, as this effort will simply not succeed. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been found constitutional by the Supreme Court and will provide life-saving health insurance to millions of Americans. Sadly, House Republicans would rather waste time with one more unnecessary vote than focus on working to further improve on health care reform or focusing on job creation. Most Jewish Americans — along with countless others — supported Obamacare and millions of Americans will benefit from the legislation as it is implemented. It is way past time for Republicans to cease tilting at windmills and quit playing politics with Americans’ health insurance.
Senator Arlen and Joan Specter admired the Barnes Foundation galleries which are exact replicas of the galleries on Latch’s Lane in Merion.
Gala celebrates inauguration of New Philadelphia Campus designed by Tod William Billie Tsien Architects
Star-studded event raises more than $3.7 million. Proceeds support the care and preservation of the world-renowned Barnes Collection.
— by Bonnie Squires
Among the hundreds of movers and shakers who delighted in the Barnes Foundation Gala and celebrated the opening of the museum’s move to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway were many Jewish philanthropists who donated to the $200 million project.
Bonnie Squires greeted Brian Williams as he arrived for the cocktail reception.
Brian Williams, who anchors the NBC network nightly news, served as master of ceremonies for the dinner, following a lavish cocktail reception inside the museum. The galleries with hundreds of fabulous Impressionist paintings collected by Albert Barnes were open for the gala guests.
The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Court also included an additional set of galleries for visiting exhibits. The first exhibit is dedicated to the life and times of Albert Barnes, including letters to Barnes from some of the artists whose works he collected.
More after the jump.
Linda Paskin and
David and Helen Pudlin with Sharn and James Rohr, PNC Financial Services CEO. Mrs. Pudlin served as executive vice president and general counsel for PNC Financial Services until recently.
Aileen and Brian Roberts (shown on the left) co-chaired the inaugural gala. Mrs. Roberts chairs the Building Committee of the Barnes Board of Trustees and Comcast Corporation, headed up by Brian Roberts, co-sponsors the inaugural year with PNC.
Performances by the Avalon Jazz Band, Enon Tabernacle Mass Choir, and special guest artist and multiple Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter/musician Norah Jones entertained the 900 guests. In addition to Barnes architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, and landscape architect Laurie Olin, Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Corbett and First Lady Susan Corbett attended the celebration along with Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Mrs. Lisa Nutter. Premier sponsors of the opening gala and the inaugural year for the Barnes in Philadelphia are PNC and Comcast.
The Barnes Foundation inaugural gala was co-chaired by
- Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation,
- Aileen K. Roberts, Chair of the Building Committee of the Barnes Foundation Board of Trustees,
- James E. Rohr, Chairman and CEO of The PNC Financial Services Group, and Sharon Rohr.
Steve Harmelin, Esq., treasurer of the Barnes Foundation board, with his wife Julia and Dr. David Paskin.
Marina Kats, Bernard Spain, and Marguerite Lenfest.
Marsha and Jeff Perelman with friends.
Sidney and Caroline Kimmel.
Governor Ed Rendell , Judge Marjorie O. Rendell and Billl Hankowsky.
Sharon Pinkenson had a chance to chat with Sidney Kimmel major donor and also film producer.
(Left to right) David L. Cohen executive vice president of Comcast Corporation and his wife Rhonda Cohen; Dave Watson, COO of Comcast; Charisse Lillie, Esq., president of the Comcast Foundation, and her husband Tom McGill.
PNC Bank president Bill Mills and Barnes Foundation vice president of trustees Joe Neubauer.
Patrons Joyce and Dr. Herbert Kean; Elaine Levitt; and Gerry Lenfest.
In addition to gala co-chairs, Barnes Foundation Executive Director and President Derek Gillman, Barnes Foundation Chairman Dr. Bernard C. Watson attended with Mrs. Watson, along with
- Barnes trustees The Honorable Jacqueline F. Allen and Mr. Roy Beity,
- Barnes Foundation vice chairman Joseph Neubauer and Jeanette Neubauer,
- Mr. and Mrs. Steve J. Harmelin,
- Dr. and Mrs. Neil L. Rudenstine,
- Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon Bonovitz,
- Mr. and Mrs. Donn Scott,
- Mr. and Mrs. Andre Duggin,
- Brenda and Larry Thompson,
- Gwen and Colbert King, Rajiv Savara, and
- Barnes Foundation Trustee Emerita Agnes Gund.
Philanthropists and art supporters in attendance included:
- Leonard J. Aube, Executive Director, The Annenberg Foundation,
- Rebecca W. Rimel, President and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts,
- H. Fitzgerald Lenfest, President of the Lenfest Foundation, and Mrs. Marguerite Lenfest;
- David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation;
- Thomas K. Whitford, Vice Chairman, PNC Financial Services Group;
- J. William Mills, III, Regional President, PNC Financial Services Group;
- David W. Haas, Chairman, Board of Trustees, William Penn Foundation;
- Mr. and Mrs. S. Matthew V. Hamilton, Jr., Gala Advisory Committee;
- Mrs. Samuel M.V. Hamilton, Hamilton Family Foundation;
- Mrs. and Mrs. John S. “Seward” Johnson II, The Sculpture Foundation;
- Sidney Kimmel, founder of the Sidney Kimmel Foundation, and Caroline Kimmel;
- Harold Honickman, Chairman of Pepsi-Cola, and Lynne Honickman;
- Jane and Leonard Korman, Founders, Jane and Leonard Korman Foundation;
- Bruce and Robbi Toll, Collectors;
- Robert B. Menschel, Chairman Emeritus, The Museum of Modern Art Board of Trustees;
- Mr. Ira Gluskin and Mrs. Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, Collectors and Founders of Gluskin Charitable Foundation;
- Jeffrey and Marsha Perelman;
- Mr. and Mrs. Leon Polsky,
- Mr. and Mrs. Peter Boris and
- the Roberts Family.
A number of artworld leaders were also present, among them:
- Glenn Lowry, Director of The Museum of Modern Art, and Mrs. Lowry,
- Marc Porter, Chairman, Christie’s Americas,
- Lisa Dennison, Chairman, Sotheby’s North and South America,
- Jock Reynolds, Director, Yale University Art Gallery,
- Barbara Guggenheim, partner, Guggenheim, Asher and Associates,
- Matthew Marks, owner of Matthew Marks Gallery NYC, and
- artist Ellsworth Kelly, whose 40-foot-tall Barnes Totem ws commissioned by Jeanette and Joe Neubauer and marks the entrance to the new Barnes Foundation museum.
Other notable guests included:
- Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Judge Marjorie O. Rendell,
- Senator Arlen and Mrs. Joan Specter,
- Jeffrey Lurie, Owner, Philadelphia Eagles,
- Ed Snider, Owner, Philadelphia Flyers,
- Paul Matisse, Grandson to painter Henri Matisse, and Mimi Matisse,
- Robert R. Jennings, President of Lincoln University, and Ms. Alma Mishaw,
- Olivier Serot Almeras, Consul Général de France, Ambassade de France, and Mrs. Almeras,
- Sharon Pinkerson, head of the Philadelphia Film Office,
- The Honorable Felix Rohatyn and Mrs. Rohatyn, and
- John Henry Merryman.
Barnes Foundation CEO Derek Gillman.
The Executive Producers for the event were Fred Stein, the Creative Group, Inc. and Karen Homer, HKH Innovations, LLC. Artistic Producers for the performance were Wayne Baruch and Chuck Gayton, Baruch/Gayton Entertainment Group.
The Barnes Foundation’s 93,000-square-foot building designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, conceived as a “gallery within a garden and a garden within a gallery,” is set within a four-and-a-half-acre site with landscape design by OLIN. The building provides significant new facilities for the Foundation’s core programs in art education, as well as for temporary exhibitions and visitor amenities. At the same time, the legendary Barnes art collection is displayed within a 12,000-square-foot gallery that preserves the scale, proportion and configuration of the original Merion gallery, as well as the founder’s conception of a visual interplay between art and nature.
Ten days of free admission to the Barnes Foundation’s Philadelphia campus began on May 19 and continued through May 28, made possible by the generosity of the premier sponsors of the opening, Comcast and PNC. The inaugural week culminatesd with a Memorial Day festival weekend, from 10 am on May 26 through 6 pm on May 28, featuring a variety of entertainment and programs and offering round-the-clock free admission to the renowned collection and entire campus. Tickets are required for all opening events and are available online or by calling 1.866.849.7056.
The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.”
The Barnes holds one of the finest collections of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, with extensive holdings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin and Maurice Prendergast, Old Master paintings, important examples of African sculpture and Native American ceramics, jewelry and textiles, American paintings and decorative arts and antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia. The Barnes Foundation’s Art and Aesthetics programs engage a diverse array of audiences. These programs, occurring at the Philadelphia campus, online, and in Philadelphia communities, advance the mission through progressive, experimental and interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
|Betsy Cohen, head of The Bancorp Bank, also serves on The Barnes Foundation Corporate Council.|
The Barnes Arboretum, located at the Merion campus, contains more than 2,000 species/varieties of trees and woody plants, many of them rare. Founded in the 1880s by Joseph Lapsley Wilson and subsequently added to under the direction of Mrs. Laura L. Barnes, the collection includes a fern-leaf beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Laciniata’), a dove tree (Davidia involucrata), a monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), and a redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Other important plant collections include Lilacs, Peonies, Stewartias and Magnolias. The Horticulture school at the Barnes Foundation in Merion has offered a comprehensive, three-year certificate course of study in the botanical sciences, horticultural practices, garden aesthetics, and design through a well-grounded, scientific learning experience since its inception in 1940 by Mrs. Barnes.
Photo Credit: Bonnie Squires.
The Romney campaign has been the 800-pound gorilla in the Republican primary. Throwing his money around he was able to completely saturate the Iowa, Florida, South Carolina and Michigan airwaves with attack ads that his opponents lacked the resources to respond to.
However, in order to keep up an intense offensive like that you need cash. He has been burning money faster than he has been raising it. Moreover, these charts from Talking Point Memo show that most of Romney’s money has come from big donors who have already given the maximum legal donation of $2,500. He cannot get any money from them until after the Republican National Convention, August 27-30.
Presumably Romney will have to rely more and more on his Super PAC “Restore Our Future” which accepts unlimited contributions such as $1,300,000 last month from hedge fund founder Julian Roberts and $2,000,000 from cosmetic company founder Steven Lund. After all, Romney’s staff does not want to have to give up its luxury hotels.
— by Chip Alfred
The twentieth annual Equality Forum is being held in Philadelphia. This year this global LGBT summit is highlighting the achievements of the State of Israel in giving equal opportunities to all sexual orientations.
According to the Equality Forum‘s Executive Director Malcolm Lazin:
Our 20th anniversary celebrates the transformation from a groundbreaking conference that focused on an emerging civil rights movement into the annual Equality Forum recognized as the premier annual national and international LGBT summit.
Israel as the featured nation will be represented by the Ambassador to the U.S., major Israeli LGBT leaders, and Tel Aviv DJs and entertainers.”
The annual Equality Forum includes 25 panels, International Equality Dinner, SundayOUT! at The Piazza, six parties, 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit, theater, and special events. There is no registration fee and all panels are free.
Details of the Featured Nation Israel Programs follow the jump.
Equality Forum Featured Nation Israel Programs
- Ambassador of Israel to the U.S. Dr. Michael B. Oren as Keynote Speaker at International Equality Dinner
- Israeli photographer David Adika featured at 13th annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit
- Israeli delegation including elected officials, leaders, drag queen, and entertainers
- Tel Aviv Drag Queen Osher Sabag performs at Drag Party
- Israeli Pop Star Shorty performs at SundayOUT! at The Piazza
- Tel Aviv DJs spin at Equality Forum parties
International Equality Dinner
At the National Museum of American Jewish History – Saturday, May 5th, 7 to 10 p.m.
- Houston Mayor Annise Parker – Recipient of the 17th annual International Role Model Award
- NBCUniversal – Recipient of the 10th annual International Business Leadership Award
- Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren – Keynote Speaker
- MSNBC Anchor Thomas Roberts – Master of Ceremonies
25 Major Panels including:
- Featured Nation: Israel – Moderated by Israel native Nurit Shein, Executive Director, Mazzoni LGBT Health Center, with four leading Israeli panelists, including openly gay Tel Aviv City Council Member Yaniv Weizman, Thursday, May 3rd at 8:30 p.m.
- National Military Panel – Members of OutServe, a network of out service members, on obstacles LGBT military personnel face after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Saturday, May 5th at 1:00 p.m.
- National Sports Panel – A panel of sports experts discusses the challenges facing openly LGBT amateur, college and professional athletes, Saturday, May 5th at 1:00 p.m.
- National Religious Colloquy – Moderated by Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Professor of Religion, Temple University, a panel of Catholics discusses LGBT inclusion in the Roman Catholic Church, Thursday, May 3rd at 7:00 p.m.
- National Youth Panel – Facilitated by Katherine Miller, discharged West Point cadet under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is a discussion with gay former University of Michigan Student Body President Chris Armstrong, and Iowa activist and son of lesbian parents Zach Wahls, Saturday, May 5th at 2:30 p.m.
- National Same-Sex Marriage Panel – Moderated by Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director, Equality Federation, the panel surveys the status of marriage equality, Saturday, May 5th at 2:30 p.m.
At The Piazza – Sunday, May 6th, Noon to 7 p.m.
Over 150 vendors, artisans, galleries, bars, boutiques, cafés and restaurants in an Italian inspired open-air plaza. SundayOUT! includes music, recording artists, drag queens, and Israeli DJs and performers.
Special Theatre Performance
The Twentieth-Century Way – Set in L.A. in 1914, two actors are hired by police to entrap homosexuals in public restrooms for social vagrancy, at Play and Players, Thursday, May 3rd to Saturday, May 5th
Six Parties including:
- NBCUniversal Welcome Party at Vedge – Thursday, May 3rd
- Drag Show & Party at Tabu – Friday, May 4th
- Stimulus Party – Friday, May 4th
- Girl Fever at Sisters – Saturday, May 5th
- Men’s Party at Voyeur – Saturday, May 5th
- SundayOUT! Tea Dance at Tendenza – Sunday, May 6th
For a complete schedule of events, visit The Equality Forum Website.
Equality Forum is a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum coordinates LGBT History Month, produces documentary films, undertakes high-impact initiatives and presents the premier annual national and international LGBT civil rights summit.
— by Jeffrey I. Pasek, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN)
Yesterday, all nine Justices on the Supreme Court agreed that a Lutheran Church did not have to answer claims of employment discrimination brought by a former teacher in its school. Applying the “ministerial exemption,” the Court ruled that the teacher could not maintain her claim that she had been fired in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
JSPAN’s Church-State Policy Center has been following this issue closely for some time because the ministerial exemption raises important issues about the ability of government to regulate religious organizations and the extent to which employment actions can be shielded from ordinary judicial review when the defendant raises a religious cloak as a shield.
More after the jump.
The case decided by the Supreme Court involved a “called” teacher who acquired a formal minister of religion commission. Her job duties were similar to lay teachers and included teaching secular and religious subjects, leading her class in daily prayer and devotional exercises and leading a chapel service for students a couple times a year. On these facts, the Court had no difficulty deciding that the plaintiff was a minister within the meaning of the ministerial exemption.
According to Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion, the employment discrimination laws do not authorize “government interference with an internal church decision that affects the faith and mission of the church itself.” The purpose of the exemption is to protect religious organizations as institutions, not to safeguard their decisions only when they prove they made those decisions for a religious reason.
The Court’s interpretation of the ADA was grounded in the First Amendment, but the ruling expressed no view on whether the ministerial exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct by their religious employers.
JSPAN had been invited to join an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in this case. For policy reasons, JSPAN declined. We rejected the approach that a religious institution must go through a trial to answer the question of motive for its personnel actions. In addition to raising entanglement issues, that would render the ministerial exemption of no value in many instances. The ministerial exemption, as a policy matter, should shield (often poor) religious organizations from the costs of expensive employment-discrimination litigation without forcing a religious organization to establish a doctrinal basis for its action or to show a legitimate non- religious motive for an employment action.
JSPAN will continue to monitor cases involving application of the ministerial exemption in other contexts as courts grapple with the scope to be accorded it. The issue is of significant importance considering the number of social service programs funded by the government that are operated by private religious groups.
— by Bonnie Squires
The award-winning documentary, Paper Clips, was shown Sunday, at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, and Sandra Roberts, the eighth-grade teacher from Whitwell, Tennessee, who supervises the project, spoke to several hundred Har Zion Hebrew High School students, parents, friends and community members. Seen here welcoming Ms. Roberts are (left to right) student Seth Selarnick, his mother Nancy Selarnick, both of Penn Valley; Ms. Roberts; and Norman Einhorn, co-principal of Har Zion’s Hebrew High School.
Ms. Roberts was asked by her principal in the late 1990s to create an after-school project to each tolerance and understanding, particularly in light of the lack of diversity in their small-town middle school. When Roberts learned that her students just could not fathom what 6 million would be, in studying the Holocaust and the extermination of Jewish communities in Europe, she challenged them to come up with a collection of 6 million somethings so they could touch and feel the enormity.
The students did research and learned that Norwegians wore paper clips on their collars during Wolrd War II as a way of showing quiet sympathy for the Jews who were perishing in concentration camps. So Whitwell students began writing letters to famous people, journalists, companies, asking everyone to donate a paper clip in memory of someone lost in the Holocaust.
The Holocaust Project mushroomed, and an article in the Washington Post really helped launched the project. The film, which was done about ten years ago, criss-crosses the country, raising awareness and teaching students and their families to work to stamp out prejudice.
Confused about how the new health reform law really works? This short, animated movie — featuring the “YouToons” — explains the problems with the current health care system, the changes that are happening now, and the big changes coming in 2014.
Written and produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the movie is narrated by Cokie Roberts, a news commentator for ABC News and NPR and a member of Kaiser’s Board of Trustees.
Let’s face it folks, the new health care reform law is com-plex. It runs about a 1,000 pages even in tiny print.
So it’s no surprise that very few Americans have actually read it.
But it’s about to affect all of us, and many have been wondering what it will mean for our health, our wallets and our country.
Let’s say we take all 310 million Americans and squish us down to just 25 people.
Yep, each of these folks would represent about 12 million of us. And this is pretty much what we’d look like.
Polls show about three out of ten of us say health care reform will make us better off, a similar number say worse off, and a similar number again say it won’t make much difference at all. Some of us don’t know what to think. I guess you could say we’re kinda split on this one.
But no matter where you stand on the issue, it’s likely you’re thinking, “Hello? I got some basic questions still unanswered here.”
And you deserve real answers, not the partisan rhetoric and spin we’ve been flooded with.
So let’s break down what the reform law does and doesn’t do and what it will cost. If you want to read the whole law, go ahead. But watching this video is the next best thing.
Ready to jump in?
Let’s begin with the problems in our current health care system. Problem number one is, what problem number one usually is, money.
Most people agree that health insurance policies are too expensive.
For a family, the average premium is almost $14,000 dollars a year…and growing. Premiums have doubled over the last nine years, ballooning way faster than inflation!
Plus, our population is aging, meaning more people with more health problems. So, health care costs are the fastest growing part of the federal budget.
The second problem is that the system is full of holes. Like the fact that people buying insurance on their own can be turned down for having a pre-existing health condition. Small businesses may be charged extra if some of the workers are sick, making insurance unaffordable. And some insurance policies have a lifetime limit on benefits. After that, you’re out of luck.
That means some of the people least likely to have coverage are the ones who need it most. Nice, huh?
High costs and holes in the system mean more than one in seven of us have no health insurance to protect us at all. Many more struggle to pay their bills and can only afford bare minimum policies that may not cover much.
High costs to households, strain on the federal budget and people with no protection. It’s easy to see why many people were looking for something different.
So here’s what the health reform law plans to do in its first phase, between now and 2014.
To start dealing with costs, insurers will be limited in how they spend our premium dollars. If they use too much for administrative costs or profits, they’ll be forced to give some of it back through rebates. This won’t stop premium increases, but it may help some.
Some services will become free in all new private insurance policies, and in Medicare — preventive care like screenings and vaccinations.
People on Medicare, because they’re over 65 or disabled, will get more help with their drug costs. Young people can save money and stay insured by remaining on their parents’ policies up to age 26. And some small businesses will get tax breaks to help them pay for health insurance for their workers.
And the holes? Well, some will be closed starting now too. Lifetime limits on health coverage will be gone, whether you buy insurance on your own or get it from your employer. And it will be illegal to turn kids down for having a pre-existing health condition, like asthma or diabetes.
Of course, some adults who buy insurance on their own will still be getting rejected between now and 2014. But those who do can enter something called a high-risk pool, run by the government.
No, it’s more like a policy that covers the sickest uninsured people, meaning it’s riskier for insurance companies. That’s why the government will chip in some money to bring down the cost.
Some say these high-risk pools will help a lot of people. Others say these pools will still be too expensive, and may not have enough government money to stay in business until they’re replaced by something better, in Phase II.
On New Year’s Day 2014, some big changes kick in. First, let’s look at how the law makes health care more affordable. Medicaid will be expanded to cover all low-income individuals and families in every state.
And depending on what you make, if you lose your job or your employer doesn’t provide decent coverage, you may get a health insurance tax credit.
And while most of us will continue to get health insurance at work just like now, if you don’t have that option, you’ll be able to buy coverage in what’s called an “Exchange.” You’ll be hearing a lot about them, so let’s stop and look at how they work.
An exchange is like a virtual insurance mega-mall. Based on where you live, you’ll get an easy- to-understand menu of options to compare plans in plain English. And the exchange makes sure insurance companies compete fairly under strict rules.
The idea is that by giving consumers good information, a fair playing field and access to lots of choices, competition among insurers will keep rates competitive.
Now, onto plugging the holes. In 2014 insurers will no longer be able to turn people down or charge them more if they’re sick.
You might say, hold on a minute, if I can’t be turned down or charged more, why not just wait until I get sick or injured to buy insurance at all?
Not so fast buddy. See, with few exceptions, people will be required to have insurance or pay a special tax. Same with larger businesses, who will pay fines if they don’t insure their workers.
Of course, nobody likes being told they have to buy anything. But without this rule, experts say you can’t require that everyone be eligible for coverage. Imagine telling home insurers they have to cover people whose houses are already on fire!
So the government will provide credits, expanded programs and new rules. They say that by 2019, 32 million of us who don’t have health insurance will have it. Some of those who will still be uninsured: undocumented immigrants, who aren’t eligible for coverage under the law.
No surprise, all this is going to cost money. 938 billion dollars over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the impartial referee when Congress debates these kinds of things.
It’s a lot of money, sure, but if you look at it another way, it’s 2% of our federal budget, and 3% of what we’ll be spending on health care overall.
Now, the President and Congress insisted these new costs will be paid for so they don’t push the budget deficit up any further. That means money will come out of someone’s pocket. That’s where the tough politics come in.
A lot of the savings will come from health care providers and insurers in the Medicare program.
The fees the government pays to hospitals under Medicare won’t be allowed to rise as fast as they have been.
And, insurance companies that provide services to people on Medicare will be paid less.
Medicare will also create a bunch of experiments around the country to test different ways of paying doctors, hospitals and other providers to make the health care system more efficient,
and improve the quality of care. With luck some of these experiments will work, and then be adopted by the private sector and help lower costs for employers and families too. Plus, a new federal advisory board will make recommendations about other ways to deal with increases in health care costs.
Some taxes will go up too. People with high earnings will pay higher Medicare taxes. There will be new taxes on insurers and businesses who offer high-end benefit plans, and on companies that make medical devices and drugs. And oh, anyone who visits a tanning salon now has to pay a new tax too.
With these new cost-cutting measures and new taxes, the Congressional Budget Office says the whole package will actually reduce the federal deficit over the next ten years. Of course, the total federal deficit is expected to run into the trillions, so the health reform law isn’t going to solve that problem.
Well, that’s the reform law. Do you love it, hate it, still don’t know? Either way, there’s still a lot of work ahead. You’ll be hearing lots of different things about this law. Some people support reform, and if anything want to expand it and increase government oversight of insurers and the health care industry. Others oppose it, and think it creates too big a role for the government. Some states have even gone to court claiming the requirement that everyone buy insurance is unconstitutional.
Politicians and pundits will be talking to you as if you’ve got no idea what’s in that thousand- page law. But by watching this, you’re on your way to getting informed. And you can make sure your friends and family are too, just by passing this little video around.