Medicare as we know it
[L]et’s be honest, how much do you really know about Medicare? If you’re under age 65 there’s a good chance that you know very little about the program. You have had no reason to, at least until now.
Five years ago I had to help a Cabinet Secretary and a senior White House staffer get up to speed very quickly on the absolute basics of Medicare, just the broadest brush strokes. They, like you, needed to understand Medicare principally from a top-down budget perspective, rather than as a participant in the system. I created a simple two-page outline for them to study.
I have updated the numbers in that document and offer it here, hoping it can provide some basic facts and context to the Medicare component of the current budget debate. This outline won’t make you an expert, but at least you’ll have a starting point.
Ten points, grouped as “Who gets it and what they get,” “How it’s delivered,” and “How it’s financed.”
Now you know.
(I find it apt that FFS can refer to both “Fee-For-Service” and “For F*ck’s Sake.”)
Wise Bread: Should We Pay $2 Per Pound for Garbage Disposal?
Yeah, probably. That headline is a tad misleading, but the point is that we should pay on a per-pound basis for garbage disposal instead of flat fees, thus deterring us from throwing things away. I know how much we pay for trash removal and I know we put out about three bags every two weeks but I don’t know how much it all weighs. Of course switching to a system like that requires infrastructure to manage the system itself and infrastructure to manage the increased recycling.
Related, I just filled out a survey on recycling in my county. At our old house (in a suburb in this same county), we had a large recycling bin and single-stream collection, meaning we could throw everything in one container and it gets sorted at the facility. The cost of trash and recycling was rolled into our association fee, so I don’t know how much it cost us. At our new house (in the central city in this same county), we have a small recycling bin and we have to separate paper, plastics, glass, metal, boxes, and newspaper. There’s a single-stream pilot ongoing in a couple other neighborhoods; not sure how long it will be until we have results. I’m assuming the result is an increase in quantities recycled by residents, but I have no idea how that translates to cost on the recycling facility’s end.
There have been composting pilots in other neighborhoods as well, but those are entirely managed by neighborhood groups and/or residents. The county survey did ask about interest in organics recycling and how that might interface with existing yard waste collection. Now that we have a backyard, I’d like to compost, but my problem is we probably won’t be gardening enough (if at all) to use it. So then I have to figure out what to do with it. But I’m pretty sure, once we take all the organics out of our garbage, our actual garbage quantity will be pretty small. I’m already requesting to swap our large garbage cart out with a small garbage cart. Another thing pointed out in the county survey was the possibility of less frequent garbage collection with an organics collection program. This is largely because of volume, I imagine, but they took care to point out that it’s the organics that smell, so you won’t have odor issues with less frequent garbage collection.
I’d hate to be the workers on the organics collection truck. Especially in the summer. Unfortunately, a city in the next county over shut down their municipal composting program because the giant pile of collected organics smelled terribly and that smell blew all around the city. There’s got to be some enterprising company that knows how to address that. Or maybe a strategically placed wind farm would do the trick?
The People’s Budget
The Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which my congressman Keith Ellison is a co-chair, put forth The People’s Budget. There’s a four-page letter/memo (pdf) outlining the plan. Obviously, this is an overview. It expresses more about guiding principles than about specific numbers. The thing is those guiding principles are just so different from conservative budget proposals, I felt compelled to take note of the outline somewhere.
Breakdown of Policies
Individual income tax policies
- Extend marriage relief, credits, and incentives for children, families, and education, but let the upper-income tax cuts expire and let tax brackets revert to Clinton-era rates
- Index the AMT for inflation for a decade (AMT patch paid for)
- Rescind the upper-income tax cuts in the tax deal
- Schakowsky millionaire tax rates proposal (adding 45%, 46%, and 47% top rates)
- Progressive estate tax (Sanders estate tax, repeal of Kyl-Lincoln)
- Tax capital gains and qualified dividends as ordinary income
Corporate tax reform
- Tax U.S. corporate foreign income as it is earned
- Eliminate corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies
- Enact a financial crisis responsibility fee
- Financial speculation tax (derivatives, foreign exchange)
- Enact a public option
- Negotiate Rx payments with pharmaceutical companies
- CMS program integrity and other Medicare and Medicaid savings in the president’s budget.
- Prevent a cut in Medicare physician payments for a decade (maintain doc fix)
- Raise the taxable maximum on the employee side to 90% of earnings and eliminate the taxable maximum on the employer side
- Increase benefits based on higher contributions on the employee side
- End overseas contingency operations emergency supplementals starting in 2013, providing $170 billion in FY2012 funding for withdrawal
- Reduce baseline Defense spending by reducing strategic capabilities, conventional forces, procurement, and R&D programs
- Invest $1.45 trillion in job creation, early childhood, K-12 and special education, quality child care, energy and broadband infrastructure, housing, and R&D
- Infrastructure bank
- Surface transportation reauthorization bill
- Finance surface transportation reauthorization
(via Colin Kloecker)
The Web Designer’s Guide to iOS Apps
In case you’re into that. Kristofer Layon, web designer and creator of MinneWebCon, wrote this book, writes this blog, and recently presented on it at SXSW Interactive.