Friday, February 6, 2015

Finding Solutions After CoOportunity's Failure

President Obama’s health care law is failing. The abrupt collapse of CoOportunity Health exemplifies Obamacare’s unsustainable cycle of spending and mandates, and has left tens of thousands of Nebraskans once again searching for insurance with even fewer options.

CoOportunity Health is one of 23 Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan Programs (CO-OPs) created through Obamacare. Though CoOportunity received $146 million in federal loans, those funds were not enough to sustain this Obamacare-created program for more than one year. In December, it was seized by the Iowa state insurance commissioner and now faces liquidation.

I am extremely concerned for Nebraskans needing health coverage and for the taxpayers who have seen millions of dollars lost and millions more put at risk. Last month, I sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell asking about options available to those impacted by CoOportunity’s failure and how further risks to taxpayers can be avoided. I await a response to my inquiry and hope to get answers for those who need them.

While people across the country suffer rising health care costs, tax hikes and coverage losses, President Obama and his allies have consistently resisted making any changes to the law to reduce these burdens. Soon after the 114th Congress convened in January, I joined 73 of my colleagues asking House Leadership for an early vote to fully repeal Obamacare. This week, I was pleased to vote with a House majority in support of H.R. 596 to repeal this harmful law.

This vote, though important, does not fix the damage. We must replace the President’s failed legislation with consumer-based solutions which reduce costs and empower patients to make their own health care choices. The Chairmen of three major House committees have founded a working group to pursue patient-centered health care solutions to replace Obamacare. I look forward to supporting these efforts through my role on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.

Ensuring rural Nebraskans have access to quality, affordable care remains among my top priorities. On Wednesday, I was honored to meet with Nebraska health care professionals and receive the National Rural Health Association’s (NRHA) Congressional Champion award in recognition of my leadership on rural health care issues, including the bills I have introduced to address arbitrary regulations threatening many providers.

As we seek answers in the wake of CoOportunity Health’s failure, it is clear Nebraskans deserve better options for care and taxpayers deserve better accountability for their tax dollars. I will keep working in Nebraska and Washington, D.C., to create more market-based, patient-friendly solutions for our health care system.

About the Author:

Congressman Adrian Smith from Nebraska serves on the Committee on Ways and Means. Congressional Rural Caucus (Chair), Congressional Rural Veterans Caucus (Chair), Modern Agriculture Caucus (Chair), Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, Congressional Western Caucus and Congressional General Aviation Caucus.

Smith has been noted for his consistent voting against tax increases, massive government bailouts, and in his opposition of the affordable healthcare act (aka ObamaCare) which is creating massive uncertainty for our nation's job creators. Smith, a co-sponsor of the Balanced Budget Amendment and a supporter of a Congressional earmark moratorium, has earned a reputation as a solid conservative through his votes to protect the rights of gun owners, efforts to limit the scope of government, and his strong pro-life voting record.

Super Bowl Commercials

I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. And I have to say, it was a great game: the back and forth drama, athleticism, and spectacular plays, particularly in the end. As I sat in my chair, watching the sportsmen compete in this great tradition that remains one of America’s cultural touchstones, I did, so to speak, keep the remote close at hand. The Super Bowl commercials that weave between great plays might be a fascinating survey of social trends, but I am a father—not a social scientist—and perhaps like you, I am responsible for distracting attention when advertisements get out of hand.

Among the silly commercials (the Kardashian one), the stupid commercials (the Kardashian one), and the risqué commercials (the Kardashian one—and others), I found some uplifting surprises. Several advertisements channeled genuine charm and warmth. One was reminiscent of the poignant “God Made the Farmer” commercial from two years ago. Several car companies offered tributes to fatherhood with moving presentations of relationships between dads and their sons and daughters. A soap company asked “What makes a man stronger?” and answered with a montage of fathers and children in family life, ending with a humorous pitch for their product. Another car commercial concluded with “The world is a gift: play responsibly”—a good way of expressing a deeper truth. A fast food company agreed to give away food when customers called their mothers.

Super Bowl commercials are a barometer of American culture. Often shown just once a year, these colorful and inventive advertisements highlight seismic social and commercial trends. Marketing executives around the world dream of 30 second game spots that can capture the moment and sell a product. For better or for worse, these game time commercials are a reflection of our identity—or at least of the direction where Hollywood and big business want us to go.

Maybe Hollywood and big business have concluded that their power can have major impact on the imagination of people around the country. Rather than appealing to that which is degraded and exploitive, perhaps marketing executives are realizing Americans yearn for a message focused on something higher and good, something beneficial to persons, which in turn is good for business.

About the Author:

JEFF FORTENBERRY has served as the U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st congressional district since 2005. He is the Chairperson for the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and has a seat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a member of the following Caucus groups: Civil War Battlefield Caucus - Congressional Biofuels Caucus - Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus - House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus - International Conservation Caucus - Sportsmen's Caucus.

Congressman Fortenberry has become the most knowledgeable representative on Capitol Hill for nuclear security issues.

Memories Down Dental Lane

I don't have anything against the Brits. I honestly don't so if you are reading this and are English please don’t feel as if I am specifically referring to you.

I am now in my late 60’s, have lost a great deal of my hair, which I had an abundance of when I was younger. I wear trifocals and have the early stages of cataracts in both eyes. I also have the lovely experience of cardiac arrhythmia for which I am hog-tied to a bottle of pills I must take daily just to keep the ticker from deciding to run off without adult medicinal supervision into a maddening, unsteady Clydesdale gallop. I also bear up under several other ‘elderly’ plagues and symptoms such as arthritis, low back pain, sciatica and IBS, for which I am also tethered to a nightly remedy in pill form. Fortunately my mind and memory are still in tact revealing no degree of betrayal at this stage of the game.

Getting old is not for the faint of heart or the weak of mind and spirit. I really don't mind all these complications since I have rarely met anyone of my age or older who hasn't undergone some, all, or even more of these maladies. However, there is one problem I have been battling since I was just a wee lad that continues to plague me six decades later ... the trips to the dentist chair.

My first visit took place soon after Doc Holliday stopped practicing the art, or so it seems, since the practices and tools used in 1955 didn’t seem far removed from that gunslinging driller’s era. Since then I have had every wisdom teeth surgically removed, countless cavities filled, teeth pulled and replaced with bridges ... and more bridges. Teeth capped, recapped, whitened, laminated, brushed, flossed, banded and X-rayed enough to create my own oral WMD. Fortunately the denture route has been avoided thus far.

I was sitting in my assigned spot in my dentist’s sleek new office (no doubt one that I and others of my ilk paid for) a week ago for a bi-annual cleaning in which the dental technician was aggressively poking, prodding, grinding and scraping six months of lavishness I attacked my oral cavity with by means of candy, cake, pie, a deluge of lemonade to keep those rancid kidney stones at bay and the application of sugar-coating from my daily intake of coca cola. As she was prattling along about something or other I interrupted her loquacious oratory to inform her how lovely and fresh my teeth and breath always feel immediately after cleaning, to which she double-timed the final application of peppermint flavored paste that has the consistency of the beaches of Borneo and within mere seconds my mouth was minty fresh while feeling like the leavings of a well-worn gravel road.

Today I am back in that familiar chair to have a permanent cap placed on a molar that has decided its days of remaining an independent entity are over. As I sat back and the dentist’s plastic guarded face blocked out the sun of those bright old fashioned OR lights he proceeded to drill, drill some more, one final drill for good measure then a mold was taken, he removed himself to some secret cave in the office I helped pay for and within minutes returned, placed a new cap on the hollowed-out remains of my tooth, administered peppermint glue, shined a cool laser beam to the application, removed my lobster bib and said, “See you in six months.”

Now I am the proud owner of a cubic zirconia capped-tooth that will never crack, break or loosen unless it comes into contact with a nefarious diamond cutter. It took all of ten minutes for the painless procedure which takes me back to my younger days when Doc Holliday would put me under with gas, work on me with a foot-cranked drill and 3 hours later after experiencing a protracted feeling of never ending falling the dentist would wake me up and say to me, as the slobber dripped from the side of my mouth, “See you in six months.”

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Malcolm Butler Knows About Gut Feelings

Rookie New England Patriots Cornerback had a premonition that he would make a game changer play in this year’s Superbowl XLIX game played in Phoenix, Arizona.

I don’t think even he realized how big a deal his vision would cause within the ranks of American football enthusiasts and sports writers.

True to his internal gut feeling, Malcolm Butler, the un-drafted rookie not only made a miraculous play but it happened in the final crucial seconds of the game, on the one-yard line and his interception of Russell Wilson’s pass attempt prevented the Seattle Seahawks from scoring just the number of points they needed to defeat the Patriots.

Malcolm Butler has been given some first-class treatment since the event, garnering accolades from fellow teammates, the Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick, the team’s owner Bob Kraft, the press and most importantly football fans from across the nation - except perhaps those in the State of Washington.

He has also reaped some concrete awards including a free trip to Disneyland and yes, a brand new Chevy Silverado fully loaded truck from his quarterback Tom Brady. Because of Butler’s save interception Mr. Brady was awarded the Super Bowl MVP and even Tom knows that if it hadn’t been for the rookie cornerback that MVP would have been carried off by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. I bet Mr. Butler will likely also see a bit of a jump in his paycheck as well.

Butler is very young and barring any injuries has many more years of professional play before him, but it is highly unlikely he will ever capture a moment in football history as he did on that fateful Sunday night in Phoenix.

Listen to your gut - it can reap great reward