Friday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), Sen. Doug Jones, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-Selma), and Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) released separate statements to announce that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has finalized the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) proposed rule which will now provide relief from the increasing disproportion of reimbursement to hospitals created by the Medicare wage index.
“Alabama hospitals have suffered the negative effects of the Medicare wage index for over two decades,” said Senator Shelby. “I am proud that Administrator Verma and CMS have worked tirelessly to ensure that this injustice to our state’s hospitals has been appropriately addressed. This rule adjustment will bring balance to Medicare reimbursement for Alabama, particularly our rural hospitals, and hospitals across the country.”
“For years, I’ve been working with Alabama’s hospitals and the delegation to advocate for increased Medicare reimbursements for Alabama’s hospitals, which are currently reimbursed at the lowest rates in the country,” Rep. Sewell said. “Today’s announcement is great news for Alabama’s hospitals, especially those in rural areas of the state where every dollar counts,. With over 88 percent of rural Alabama hospitals operating in the red, it is critical that we do everything we can to help our hospitals provide the services needed to keep Alabamians healthy. Recalculating the way Medicare reimburses Alabama hospitals is a crucial step in achieving that goal.”
“Today’s final rule will provide much-needed relief for Alabama’s struggling hospitals by fixing the Medicare Wage Index formula,” Sen. Jones said, “For two decades, Alabama has been fighting the unfair Medicare reimbursements and today receives a rate that is just 67 percent of the national average,” said Senator Doug Jones, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “I am grateful that after meeting with Administrator Verma, Senator Shelby, and Congresswoman Sewell last year, CMS finally heard our concerns and took action to find a solution that better serves our hospitals and rural communities. This was a top priority for me when I came to the Senate last year, and I am proud that we were able to make this long-overdue change a reality.”
“Administrator Verma called me this afternoon with the good news that the Trump Administration is finalizing today the Medicare Area Wage Index reforms I have long sought for Alabama hospitals,” Rep. Byrne said, “This is welcome news for rural hospitals who for decades have seen their reimbursements for serving Medicare patients decline because hospitals in areas like New York and Los Angeles have gamed the system. Shortly after President Trump came into office, Administrator Verma promised me that she would look into this issue. I am thankful to President Trump and his Administration for listening to my concerns regarding this unjustified disparity in payments that has contributed to budgetary shortfalls and hospital closures in Alabama. This is an important day for our state, and I’ve been proud to lead this fight.”
Prior to the long-awaited rule change, CMS used wage index data based on regional labor costs to determine Medicare reimbursement levels for hospitals in a particular area. CMS was reimbursing many hospitals in Alabama and around the nation less for the same services as other states because CMS believed that labor was cheaper here.
On multiple occasions, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has pointed out that the area wage index is an issue that CMS should address. In November of 2018, HHS OIG issued a report that outlined concerns with the current wage index calculations, including incorrect or incomplete wage data, insufficient reviews of information, and the inaccuracy of rural floor and hold-harmless provisions.
Alabama had the lowest wage index in the country, so many of Alabama’s urban and rural hospitals have suffered from low reimbursement levels, while hospitals in other states have taken advantage of overpayments illustrated in the report. Most recently, the HHS OIG released an updated list of top 25 recommendations in July to highlight waste fraud and abuse in the health care system. Addressing the area wage index was listed in the top five issues.
Earlier this year, Senator Shelby led a letter, signed by the entire Alabama Congressional delegation, to CMS Administrator Seema Verma encouraging the agency to provide Alabama hospitals relief from the Medicare wage index through the use of its rulemaking process authority.
Prior to the letter and throughout this entire process, Senator Shelby and the other members of Alabama’s congressional delegation participated in many calls, meetings, and discussions with Administrator Verma and other CMS officials to encourage an adjustment to the Medicare wage index.
Opinion | It’s time for Alabama Democrats to learn from Alabama Republicans
Democrats never seem to learn from Republicans.
All around the country, and all around the state of Alabama, Democrats are still playing by the rules. Still listening to the cries and outrage from the other side. Still entertaining the idea that compromise and diplomacy are important to Republicans on some level.
Still watching Lucy jerk that football away at the last moment.
It’s time that stopped.
It is time — actually, well past time — for Democrats to adopt the attitudes of their GOP colleagues, and just do whatever the hell you want to do.
Whatever goal you set, go achieve it. Whatever policy is important, implement it. Whatever action you believe is right, take it.
This is how Republicans have governed now for years. It is how they have wrestled control of the U.S. Supreme Court — just don’t hold a hearing for a duly appointed candidate — and how they have stolen elections — keep blocking attempts to secure elections. It is how they control half of Congress — thanks, gerrymandering! — despite representing nearly 20 million fewer people and how they have managed to offset a growing minority vote — put up every roadblock short of a poll tax.
In Alabama, it has how they adopted the AAA act to funnel tax money to private schools — just completely rewrite the bill in the dead of night — and how they passed the most restrictive abortion ban — just ignore promises and public opinion. It is how they have stopped attempts to pass gambling legislation — by straight up lying about the law — and how they have steadily cut into ethics laws — pretend that no one can understand the laws they wrote themselves — and how a House Speaker convicted on 12 felonies still isn’t in prison three years later — just don’t send him.
They don’t care.
About rules. About the law. About public perception. About basic decency.
And it’s time for Democrats, especially in Alabama, to adopt the same attitudes.
Because if Republicans can behave this way to implement racist bills and roll back ethics laws and protect the income of the elites, then Democrats shouldn’t think twice about doing it to protect rural hospitals or new mothers’ health or workers’ rights or decent public schools.
Now, this will be a big change for Democrats, so let me explain how this would look in practice, using the ongoing saga of Confederate monuments.
Republicans shoved through an absurd bill last year that protects the state’s monuments to those who fought to enslave other human beings, and they’re shocked — shocked and outraged — that African Americans in Alabama might find it offensive to honor the men who enslaved their ancestors.
The bill they passed last year was a dumb bill, right down to the portion which levied a fine on cities if those cities removed or damaged a monument. The bill completely screwed up the fines portion, failing to penalize cities for moving or damaging monuments over 40 years old and failing to place a per-day fine on those cities. Instead, the Alabama Supreme Court said the cities would be subject to one $25,000 fine.
Birmingham has a monument that it desperately wants to move. It has already boarded up the monument in Linn Park, and the ALSC, in the same ruling, ordered the boards to come down.
And this is the first opportunity for Mayor Randall Woodfin to approach this with a new attitude.
Tear it down.
Write out one of those big “Price is Right” checks for $25,000, hold a press conference and award that money to Steve Marshall like he just won at Plinko.
At the same time, workers should be taking that monument apart piece by piece and moving it to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where it can be viewed for its historical significance instead of serving to honor traitors and racists.
No apologies. No shame. Don’t even entertain their complaints.
A similar approach should be taken by the city of Montgomery in regards to its occupational tax, which Republicans are attempting to stop through legislative action.
Montgomery is going broke, and it can’t put enough cops on the streets. Part of that is because every day about 70,000 people flood into the city to go to work, and then they leave each afternoon and spend their money in — and give their tax dollars to — surrounding cities and counties.
Montgomery has to do something to offset the costs, so an occupational tax has been proposed. But just as quickly as it was, the ALGOP — the kings of handouts to people who don’t need them — passed a bill to block it.
So, some creativity is required.
Instead of an occupational tax, pass a public safety tax.
If you work within the city limits of Montgomery, but live outside of those city limits, your paycheck will now be taxed an extra 1 percent to offset the cost of the police and fire services that you might use while in the city every day.
No apologies. No shame. Don’t listen to GOP complaints.
It’s a shame that things have to be like this, but they do. Democrats have tried for decades to force rational debate and to promote the value of compromise. Those pleas have fallen on deaf ears, which have been attached to toddler-like brains that have justified atrociously selfish behaviors and awful governance.
At this point, it has gone on so long and been so successful for Republicans, the only thing that might break through is a taste of their own medicine.
Give it to them.
Jones criticized for voting to limit Trump’s war powers authority
Thursday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) voted in favor of S.J.Res.68, a resolution which directs the removal of United States military from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress. Jones has been criticized by Republicans for voting to limit President Donald J. Trump’s war powers on Iran.
“Before a President can lead us into war, he or she must first earn the support of the American people and also fulfill their solemn constitutional obligation to seek approval from Congress,” Sen. Jones said in a statement. “While the President has the power to protect Americans in the case of an imminent attack, that authority does not extend to committing our service members to long-term hostilities unilaterally. This resolution sends a strong message that we will follow the Constitution and we will not send our troops into harm’s way without the serious consideration and consent of the Congress.”
Trump Victory National Finance Committee member Perry O. Hooper Jr. released a statement in response.
“Senator Jones once again turned his back on Alabama and voted as the leftwing Democrats commanded. He has no regard for the values, opinions or views of Alabamians,” Hooper said. “He sees us as deplorables just like the elites of the Democratic party who have funded 80 percent of his doomed campaign for re-election.:
Hooper stated, “I whole heartily support the President who stated ‘We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness… If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal. The Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party.’”
“The Commander-in-chief must be free to work with his staff and his military leaders to conduct covert operations like the one that eliminated Iran’s terrorist-in-chief General Soleimani,” Hooper added. “You can’t micromanage the war on terrorism. The Democrats in Congress are so filled with Trump Derangement Syndrome that no matter how much it would benefit our country and the world; they would never give Trump a “victory”. If it came down to it, they would leak everything to the media no matter what the consequences.”
Senator Jones is a cosponsor of the legislation and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Eight moderate Republicans voted with the Democrats on the resolution.
Senator Jones has also been criticized by Republicans for his comments that he was “appalled” by Pres. Trump’s actions following his acquittal on both Articles of Impeachment.
“Newsflash for Senator Doug Jones: Most Alabamians have been appalled by his actions his entire time in office,” former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “It’s about time we send Doug home, and replace him with someone who understands our values. Alabamians deserve a Senator they can be proud of again.”
Sessions is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Jones’ Senate seat.
The Republican primary will be on March 3.
Congressional candidates call on Sessions, Byrne to stand up for South Alabama
At a rare joint press conference, the Democratic Candidates for the First Congressional District called on Rep. Bradley Byrne and former Sen. Jeff Sessions to stand up for South Alabama following the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut nearly $300 million slated for projects awarded to Austal.
“The current administration’s decision to divert that funding from Austal to build the border wall is harmful to our community and will potentially put good jobs at risk,” said Dr. James Averhart, CW05, USMC retired. “This is nothing more than a political stunt on the backs of the hard-working men and women of South Alabama.”
Over the years, South Alabama has become a hub for shipbuilding and defense projects developing ships and planes for the United States military.
“While the President may be comfortable playing political games with our communities, our representatives must stand strong against this disastrous decision,” said Dr. Kiani Gardner, a scientist and professor. “We are grateful Senator Jones is speaking out against it and the devastating impacts it could have on our communities.”
This matter transcends partisan politics, our Republican representatives must stand with Senator Jones and tell President Trump to find a better way to protect our Southern border,” said Rick Collins, a longtime Mobile businessman.
This is only the latest Trump Administration proposals that could have devastating impacts for the local economy. Recently, the administration proposed new tariffs that would have a significant impact on Airbus’ local operation.
Sanders campaign seeking Bernie Victory Captains in Alabama
Saturday the Bernie Sanders for President campaign announced that they are seeking Bernie Victory Captains in Alabama who will host at least one Bernie event every week between now and the Alabama presidential primary on March 3.
“As a Bernie Victory Captain, you will host voter contact events like phone banks and Bernie Journeys to the states that vote before us that are vital to securing support for Bernie and our movement,” the Sanders campaign wrote in recruiting emails. “You will be working with world-class organizers and dedicated supporters across the country.”
“Voting for the Democratic nominee who will take on Trump is well underway,” the campaign continued. “We won Iowa and New Hampshire, and mail-in and early voting ballots are being cast across the country. Before we know it, it will be your state’s turn to vote! So we’re looking for supporters in Alabama to join our Bernie Victory Captain program. Bernie Victory Captains are supporters who can commit to hosting one event a week between now and the Alabama primary.”
Bernie Victory Captains are leading teams of people canvassing neighborhoods. They also played important roles in Sanders’ win in New Hampshire and close second place finish in Iowa. Sanders had more votes in Iowa than South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg; but the Iowa Democratic Party ruled that because Buttigieg won more caucuses that he was the winner of Iowa and not Sanders.
“A volunteer I hosted on a Bernie Journey to New Hampshire this weekend just emailed to tell me she wouldn’t have volunteered if she didn’t see the event near her. Heartwarming,” on Bernie Victory Captain wrote.
“Conquered my fear of canvassing. Hosted my third canvass yesterday and it went GREAT!!” another wrote.
Sanders is a U.S. Senator from Vermont. Though Sanders is an independent and a self-proclaimed socialist he caucuses with Senate Democrats.
The pro-Bernie group: Our Revolution wrote in an email: “The corporate media and the billionaire class have escalated their propaganda against Bernie and our movement.”
“Chris Matthews had a near hysterical breakdown on MSNBC about being “executed” in Central Park if Bernie is elected,” the group continued. “The former head of Goldman Sachs said that Bernie would “ruin” the American economy. MSNBC pretended that Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Biden are one candidate to justify not admitting that Bernie is the frontrunner in the presidential primary race.”
“As our vision of a just government that represents working people continues to gain momentum, their attacks will only become more vicious,” the group continued. “Our Revolution is organizing all over America to support Bernie and a wave of progressive candidates who share our values. Rush a donation now to help us fight back against increasingly desperate corporate propaganda and organize to win in Nevada and all over the country!”
Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) had appeared to be the Democratic frontrunner; but his campaign was rocked by disappointing finishes in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Biden has been stung by GOP criticism that his son Hunter Biden profited from lucrative overseas deal in Ukraine and China off of Biden’s tenure as Vice President.
Former New York City Mayor billionaire Michael Bloomberg has assembled a large campaign apparatus that includes hundreds of the Democratic Party’s top operatives and strategists. He has spent more than $350 million of his own fortune into a months-long national advertising campaign that has lifted him in the polls as Biden has struggled in the early contests that Bloomberg ignored.
Bloomberg needs one more national poll sanctioned by the Democratic Party to show that he has ten percent support or more for him to participate in the next Democratic debate on Wednesday in Los Vegas. Sanders, Buttigieg, Biden, and U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) have already qualified to be on the debate stage.
Congresswoman Terri A Sewell, D-Selma, and U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D) have both endorsed VP Biden. The Alabama Democratic Conference and its leader Alabama Democratic Party Vice Chair for Minority Affairs Joe Reed has endorsed Bloomberg.
The Alabama Democratic Presidential primary will be on March 3.
People in states like California and South Carolina with early voting are already casting their ballots.
Original reporting by the Hill contributed to this report.
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