Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 23, 2005

MediCare Claim Hearing

WASHINGTON (NYT/RBN), April 23 - A new federal policy will make it significantly more difficult for Medicare beneficiaries to obtain hearings in person before a judge when the government denies their claims for home care, nursing home services, prescription drugs and other treatments.

For years, hearings have been held at more than 140 Social Security offices around the country. In July, the Department of Health and Human Services will take over the responsibility, and department officials said all judges would then be located at just four sites - in Bucharest; Bangladore; Manila; and Antananarivo.

Under the new policy, Medicare officials said, most hearings will be held with videoconference equipment or by telephone. A beneficiary who wants to appear in person before a judge must show that "special or extraordinary circumstances exist," the rules say.

But a beneficiary who insists on a face-to-face hearing will lose the right to receive a decision within 90 days, the deadline set by statute.

All beneficiaries are 65 or older or disabled. About 5 million of the 41 million beneficiaries are 85 or older, and some are so sick they die while pursuing appeals.

The Department of Health and Human Services defended its new policy, saying the use of videoconference equipment would enable judges to "complete more cases" within the 90-day deadline, because they would not have to spend time traveling to remote sites. In a summary of its plans, the department said it was "not economically or administratively feasible" to station judges around the country.

Posted by b on April 23, 2005 at 23:19 UTC | Permalink


Bernard, I am tired, so tired. I simply can't keep up with one issue of social justice after a another hurled in my face by this administration. In the past three weeks up here in northern Maine we are grappling with the idea of a Federal policy that will require passports to travel back and forth to Canada. The hue and cry of most of America was ignored and Bush signed the Bankruptcy Bill. We are reeling from the stinging attack that the party of Democracy "oppresses all people of faith" and we will be the subject of propagandistic preaching by Republican Mullahs across the country. We celebrated Earth Day by having Bush sign legislation that will allow drilling for oil in wild life sanctuaries. It is likely that Bolton, a cyclone of anger, self righteousness, and arrogance will get appointed to represent America at the United Nations. And I smell a real propaganda campaign in the works as Bush nominated two ultra conservative women to federal court positions, one black and one white. The race and gender baiting that they think inspired the nation with Rice's appointment will come again upon an unsuspecting populace. As clumsy as they play the race and gender card, they know how divisive the Rovian Wormtongues and religious orcs can be, trumpting pseudo race and gender equality as a pseudo goal. And now the changes lessening court access for Medicare claims hearings, foisted upon the weakest and sickest and poorest memebrs of our society. We have created a video McCourt in place of a real one! As the Bible says, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

How do people of good will counter such a juggernaut? Where can we speak and be heard? Where are the real leaders? Where can we find the reinforcement we need to keep on track, prioritize where to resist and where to just shake our heads, sigh, and hope that life will be saner after 2006 and 2008? I was speaking with one of Mike Michaud's staff members Friday and wondering aloud how the party can find unity and vision that competes with the Republicans being perpetually programmed to hate all that is liberal while listening to the radio, watching T.V. and going to church! We don't want propaganda! But what is its effective alternative? Blogs are OK, but they foster only a remote sense of community. The Whiskey Bar and Moon of Alabama help me personally but we need more! We need to fight this effectively, not beating the air, not being one step behind arrogant, and not merely reacting to the latest outrageous thing the Bush administration concocts. In a sense, I think the sheer volume of crap flowing out of that sewer is designed to do just that, as well as keep the Holy Joes loyal and the John Birchers content.

I am thinking that we need to go back to our roots: the Enlightenment, the idea of a social contract, the concept of government by the consent of the governed, concerns over the religious wars and violence in the age before the American Revolution. If they go back to Burke, we must return to Paine and Jefferson and maybe even the Greeks, who know the values and dangers of both Democracy and Demagoguery. But that makes us reactionary not revolutionary. But I do not think a new revolution is in order. If liberalism is legitimate, it may be necessity must go back to revolutionary roots in our own America Revolutions. And by that I do not mean by embracing the card board cut outs that have come to signify the founding fathers. Go to Disney for that! I mean recapture the kind of revolutionary experiment that America was in the first place, warts and problems and all. As a historian I do that naturally, but I also notice that many liberals have vacated America's checkered past with its slavery, racism, and genocide perpetrated towards indignous people. That has allowed the radical right room to rewrite their own version of a Christian American history that panders to the ideology of the religious right uncontested (one example is David Barton's group Wallbuilders. Do a Google search on that name and see how many hits you get! Barton has had a few nights in the Lincoln room as a result). But as of yet, no American historian has yet to write a book debunking it, with the exception of a few interesting critical blogs. So much for Horowitz's damning of the humanities as a nest of communist 5th columnists! (I excuse myself as a Roman social historian and early church historian). Actually professors are more concerned with cuts to federal aid, salary compression, the erosion of tenure, occasional retrenchments, the imposition of massive assessment requirements by accrediting agencies, lost positions, an increase of service obligations and getting published. My colleagues are cordial people living lives that few outside of the academy know much about. They are surprisingly like the lives of middle management with shrinking health benefits with increased costs, increased workloads, and threats of outsourcing (the latter is the idea of having a professor run three classrooms by compressed video at the same time and get compensated for only one or two of them. We have [powerless] unions like the rest of the working veks). For that reason, I do not see much coming out of the academy other than Howard Dean.

But it has to come from somewhere! And it has to come from honest women and men who are willing to fight self sacrifically for the sake of the common American. That's what the Democratic Party once was. So where are the voices crying in this wilderness that can lead a grass roots following of people with Democratic values of tolerance, honesty, strength, and for God's sake some inspiration? We need the joy and confidence that we are right. If the propaganda of the far right has damaged one thing above all, it is by constantly forcing us to defend ourselves against repeated absurd charges, lies, and slogans (party of death, baby murders, traitors, oppressors of people of faith, ad naseum), and the corruption of the word "liberal" itself. It is a form of psychological warfare and that programming must be countered. And now a Bible lesson

Hey! Why not? It is part of western culture and its images resonate with Americans and those of western culture. Take a look at Wolstonecraft's Vindication of the rights of Women. It is permeated with allusions to Scripture! I'll just refer you to I Kings 18, where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. It is high drama. He let the prophets of Baal do their thing first, and as expected, their attempt to get fire out of Heaven failed, Elijah suceeded, but that's not the point of the story I consider important here. The point is, when the antics of their version of the religious right failed, Elijah just didn't call down fire and win. He took the people back to the abandoned and ruined ancient altar built three centuries earlier by Joshua when they crossed the River Jordan. He gathered the people around him and quietly joined old stone to old stone to remind these people where their real roots came from. Each stone represented a fractured dream of a united nation and he placed them together again, in a right relationship with each other, the gathered people and the historical past. Only then did he make the sacrifice and the fire fell. And our crumbled altar is the Spirit of Revolution, the Enlightenment, its history, and its documents. It has never needed rebuilding as much as it does now!

I'm no preacher, but if a party ever needs a kind of ritual to bring us together, that is as close as it comes. The symbolism must be simple enough for the average American to understand and powerful enough to command vision and loyalty. And above all it must be true despite the fact the our American past, like its present and future, will be led by imperfect, flawed humans with blind spots, prejudices, and weakness. I hope the diference between us and them is that we and our political supporters walk with that fact with eyes wide open and willing to learn and be accountable.

That's my Saturday night rant for now. And an approach I am thinking about. It is hardly original. As I grow older, I have come to the conclusion that nothing is. But I am curious as to what you think. We know what Bush is and what his cronies have done. How do we show in a powerful way that we are on the common man and woman's side and cleanse our national consciousness of Rovian propaganda even as it is about to be spewed out again?

Posted by: diogenes | Apr 24 2005 3:00 utc | 1

Similar things are going on here in Australia. We are losing Medicare and other social benefits as we speak...welcome to another (softer) USA state.
I just had huge argument with some dear friends tonight about stuff like this and I finally found out that we are not having same " point of view" ( not that we necessarily need to have same view as such) and difference between us has became too great for our friendship to bear. Unfortunately we are going to see less of each other in the future, that I can tell you. Most of the people are too selfish to be able to see greater picture and are happy with what they see from their point...I suppose my point is to left for their taste now. It's a pity...and who would say that having in mind where my position was not that long a go...I must be "maturing" thanks to you guys too...haha

Posted by: vbo | Apr 24 2005 14:22 utc | 2

This is a spoof, isn't? Bernhard? Please? The Bush Administration is so intent on destroying any remnants of the social safety net that I can no longer be sure if something is a joke or not. And if this is a joke, I hope no one from HHS is reading Moon of Alabama. It might give them ideas.

Posted by: Aigin | Apr 24 2005 16:13 utc | 3


Sort of unclear why you just didn't link to>this story.

It takes forever to schedule hearings w/ SS administrative law judges. Video-conferencing is not a bad idea, imo.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 24 2005 16:29 utc | 4

the joke is the places given for the appeals to take place - the story slothrop cites gives the actual locations of the hearing offices: "in Cleveland; Miami; Irvine, Calif.; and Arlington, Va."

and points out that

"Over the last five years, beneficiaries and providers prevailed in two-thirds of the 283,000 cases decided by these judges."

Posted by: mistah charley | Apr 24 2005 19:27 utc | 5

Thanks mistah - it is the outsourcing aspect I wanted to emphasize. The way the service is taken away from the people -in distance and in "self service" environment- is a general trend but in this case it is about people who can not afford having the service taken away.

What hinders the US to replace those judges in Cleveland etc with judges in Bangladore. It is a lot cheaper and helps to further lower taxes ...

Posted by: | Apr 24 2005 19:57 utc | 6


Every movement needs music with a beat and a purpose. (Amandla!)

I live out on the left coast, where many ex-hippies still cling to the PPM and John Prine that got them through the Vietnam years.

I'm trying to introduce people to the music of Michael Franti and Spearhead. Current favorite: "Everyone Deserves Music."

Posted by: catlady | Apr 25 2005 1:07 utc | 7

Similar things are going on here in Australia. We are losing Medicare and other social benefits as we speak...welcome to another (softer) USA state.

@vbo. Get real. The Australian Medicare system is not what Americans understand by Medicare. Together with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, unemployment that doesn't run out, family bonuses, subsidized housing; the only way to get into real strife and 'poverty' in Australia is from self-destructive behaviour (gambling is pervasive, but there is still someone to bail them out even if they do loose their home ownership).

There is no guarantee that you are going to get rich. You might be envious of the harbourside homes and the luxury yachts. Howard may be a pathetic sycophant. We have gone pretty far over to the right. Globalization and its effects are everywhere (check who empties your garbage every week - chances are that it's a French multinational).

Australia is pretty similar to America in many ways, and to be fair, you did say a ‘softer’ USA. However, I really think you are over-reaching when you compare what is currently going on in America to the situation in Australia.

Thus far, we have nowhere reached the levels of lunacy in present-day America. I would go a little bit further, and say that the Australia of today is pretty much like the America of yesterday. The one that most on MoA are yearning for.

Posted by: DM | Apr 25 2005 2:37 utc | 8

Thus far, we have nowhere reached the levels of lunacy in present-day America.
DM you are sure right. But I am here 7 years now and things are getting only worse...and worse...every single year. At least for poor and lower middle class. I can't find a single doctor that will bulk bill and it is here in South Brisbane (not Gold Coast or anything)...this is just an example...
Can all those people who for example work at the supermarket or wherever for $25000 afford to lose bulk billing? We can't afford it and we are much better of...
the only way to get into real strife and 'poverty' in Australia is from self-destructive behavior
If you are not seeing how others struggle with a rising debt your "point of view” must be much higher. All tho I admit getting in so huge debt driven buy so many loans available and even “forced” on you is “self-destructive in a way…
There is no guarantee that you are going to get rich.
I don't even dream to get rich I only dream not to be worse than I am and it is getting worse as time least for some of us …

Posted by: vbo | Apr 25 2005 4:09 utc | 9

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