Stimulus money goes to community health centers

More jobs and better health care.

President Barack Obama has been vague about details of his healthcare reform efforts, but he provided a hint on Monday of one direction he could take — community health centers.

As he announced the nominations of his two top health executives, Obama highlighted the allocation of $155 million to 126 community health centers as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

“These health centers will expand access to care by helping people in need — many with no health insurance — obtain access to comprehensive primary and preventive health care services,” Obama told a news conference.

“That helps relieve the burden on emergency rooms across the country, which have become primary care clinics for too many who lack coverage — often at taxpayer expense.”

The Health and Human Services Department said the money would create 5,500 new jobs and help provide health care to an estimated 750,000 low-income Americans.

Gary Pickens, chief research officer for the Healthcare business of Thomson Reuters, a division of Thomson Reuters Corp, agreed the centers relieve overburdened hospitals.

“Hospitals currently have overcrowded emergency departments and would probably prefer to see care given in more appropriate settings for conditions that don’t require hospitalization,” Pickens said in a telephone interview.

This addresses one of the most pressing problems facing our health care system. Emergency rooms are overcrowded, as too many Americans without health insurance rely on them for care. Community health centers can help handle many of these cases, and they provide better care as they are organized to handle primary health services as opposed to emergencies.

More money is on the way.

“Over the next two years, a total of $2 billion in Recovery Act funding will be invested in Community Health Centers to support renovations and repairs, investments in health information technology, and critically needed health care services,” HHS said in a statement.

These are the types of “investments” that contribute to the common good. It attacks the inefficiencies in the current system while improving the quality of care.

  

Do Republicans really want to oppose Sebelius over abortion?

This might be a case of CNN predicting a fight that won’t take place, but conservatives and Republicans are crazy if they pick this fight now.

Analysts suspected that Obama would face a battle over abortion if and when he makes a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, but religious conservatives could use Sebelius as a warm-up for the seemingly inevitable fight.

Calling Sebelius an “enemy of the unborn,” Catholic League President Bill Donohue said the Kansas governor’s nomination is particularly disturbing because the health and human services secretary is one of the few members of the administration who can directly affect abortion policy.

“Sebelius’ support for abortion is so far off the charts that she has been publicly criticized by the last three archbishops of Kansas City,” Donohue said in a statement. Video Watch why filling the Cabinet post is urgent task ยป

The liberal group Catholics United has come to Sebelius’ defense, saying the Kansas governor has taken several steps to lower the abortion rate in her state. The group also has posted excerpts of a 2006 speech in which Sebelius said she opposed abortion.

“My Catholic faith teaches me that all life is sacred, and personally I believe abortion is wrong,” she said then. “However, I disagree with the suggestion that criminalizing women and their doctors is an effective means of achieving the goal of reducing the number of abortions in our nation.”

In May, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said that Sebelius’ stance on abortion had “grave spiritual and moral consequences.” He asked that Sebelius no longer receive Communion until she repudiated her stance and made a “worthy sacramental confession.”

Naumann was reacting to Sebelius’ veto of state Senate Bill 389 and the subsequent House version, titled the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act, either of which would have tightened abortion regulations in Kansas.

In shooting down SB 389 in April, Sebelius wrote that the bill was problematic because it included no exceptions for pregnancies that endanger a woman’s life and it allowed for individuals to seek court orders preventing a woman from obtaining an abortion, even if the procedure was necessary to save her life.

“I am concerned that the bill is likely unconstitutional, or even worse, endangers the lives of women,” Sebelius said in a statement.

She further said that Kansas had striven to lower its abortion rates through adoption incentives, extended health services for pregnant women, sex education and support services for families.

Another lightning rod for Sebelius is a 2007 reception she held for Dr. George Tiller at the governor’s mansion in Topeka. Tiller, who specializes in late-term abortions and who once received the National Abortion Federation’s highest honor, is presently facing charges relating to his practice.

Last month, a district judge denied a motion to dismiss the case, meaning Tiller will go to trial on 19 misdemeanor counts relating to how he procured second opinions for late-term abortions, according to The Wichita Eagle.

Though Sebelius is dogged by many on the religious right, GOP Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts of Kansas seem willing to give her a pass on her stance on abortion.

Brownback, who sought the GOP presidential nomination and is one of the leading anti-abortion voices in the Senate, recently released a statement with Roberts, congratulating Sebelius and expressing an eagerness to work with their fellow Kansan on health issues.

The reactions from Brownback and Roberts suggest that cooler heads will prevail, and that we won’t get a sideshow on abortion at a time when both sides will be debating health care reform.

  

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to lead HHS

I’m a little disappointed with this pick. She will be excellent at HHS, and health care reform is very important, but Sebelius had a real chance of winning a Senate seat in Kansas in 2010 if she decided to run. This probably means the Democrats are pretty confident of getting over 60 without her, and taking Kansas would probably happen only if the Dems win in a rout.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius yesterday accepted President Obama’s request to become his secretary of health and human services, stepping into a central role in the new administration’s ambitious effort to overhaul the nation’s health-care system.

Sebelius’s nomination comes just days before the White House is scheduled to convene a summit on health reform, an early step in the president’s bold plan to vastly expand the reach of the health-care system. A formal announcement of her nomination is scheduled for tomorrow.

The summit, which is expected to be the first in a series of open meetings across the country, is intended to spotlight the challenges presented by the nation’s balkanized health-care system — including soaring costs and gaping holes in coverage. It is also aimed at rallying public support for an overhaul certain to draw ideological and industry opposition. The health session, similar to last week’s “fiscal responsibility” summit, will open with remarks by Obama. Participants will then split into working groups led by administration officials.

In his budget proposal unveiled last week, Obama set aside $634 billion for a new reserve fund that over the next decade would serve as a substantial down payment on the cost of moving the country closer to universal health-care coverage. About 46 million Americans lack coverage, a number likely to grow as the economic downturn puts more people out of work.

Now that she’s nominated, however, I expect her to be a respected and competent voice behind the push for health care reform.

  

Cutting Cold-War weapons systems

When Barack Obama kept Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, most liberals were disappointed, and the news media focused on how this might impact Obama’s decisions regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While those issues are certainly important, Obama and Gates will be embarking on a mission to radically change the way the United States purchases military equipment.

But if you are a defense contractor who has enjoyed a decade of bottomless Pentagon funding, it was Gates’ comments about a struggle much closer to home that are keeping you up at night. “The spigot of defense spending that opened on 9/11 is closing,” he said. “With two major campaigns ongoing, the economic crisis and resulting budget pressures will force hard choices on this department.”

Gates, the U.S.’s 22nd Defense Secretary, has declared a low-key war against the military services and the way they develop and buy the weapons they use to defend the nation. Up until now, he has done that mostly by jawboning: The U.S. can’t “eliminate national-security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything,” Gates says in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. That futile quest has led to weapons that “have grown ever more baroque, have become ever more costly, are taking longer to build and are being fielded in ever dwindling quantities.”

But his war of words is about to become very real. As he prepares a budget for next year, Gates must decide the fate of a number of fantastically expensive weapons programs the military services say they need. He can’t fund them all–and might be wise to take a knife to them all. In this, Gates has little choice: the military’s annual budget has finished growing, and the billions it once imagined it might spend on future weapons have evaporated. So cuts–and big ones–are coming, and Gates will be the man who makes them.

Though Gates was hired by George W. Bush to clean up the mismanaged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates’ greatest legacy may come in what he calls a “strategic reshaping” that better outfits the U.S. military to wage coming wars. Future weapons buys must “be driven more by the actual capabilities of potential adversaries,” Gates told Congress a few weeks ago, “and less by what is technologically feasible given unlimited time and resources.” Pentagon procurement, he said, is plagued by a “risk-averse culture, a litigious process, parochial interests, excessive and changing requirements, budget churn and instability and sometimes adversarial relationships within the Department of Defense.”

With the release today of Barack Obama’s budget outline, we’re seeing that Obama and Gates are serious about these changes. You’re also hearing Obama talk about how we can’t afford any more “Cold War” weapons systems.

The articles linked above is worth a read. It discusses specific weapons systems, and the stunning costs associated with systems that we no longer need and may be obsolete in a world where inexpensive drones can do the job of piloted planes.

This will not be an easy fight. The problem is that Congress often overrides the needs and requests of the military. Many conservative Senators will scream about wasteful spending, but then they will defend grossly expensive weapons systems if it affects jobs in their districts. Democrats do the same thing.

Based on the “Cold War” rhetoric, it looks like Obama is ready for a fight. He should bring along enough Democrats, especially if they have to choose between health care and these weapons systems.

  

Fiscal reponsibility summit

I’m listening to Obama’s remarks as he closes his Fiscal Responsibility Summit, and it’s rather stunning to see an interactive session that includes the President, and other leaders of our government like John McCain and Steny Hoyer. It was particularly interesting to hear John McCain speak and be supportive of the Obama Administration’s goal to get control of the military procurement process.

When looking at the list of attendees, it seems clear that Obama is serious about his goal to address the serious fiscal issues facing this nation. We are wasting billions of dollars with an inefficient health care system and wasteful weapons programs.

There seems to be some consensus on the potential of cutting corporate tax rates in exchange for closing loopholes.

Coupled with Obama’s aggressive, and honest, budget proposal, this might help generate some serious momentum for fiscal discipline.

  

Related Posts