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April 18th, 2021:

Weekend link dump for April 18

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? first aired on PBS 30 years ago, between 1991 and 1995. But the show’s legacy lives on for the kids of the ’90s.”

“The Krispy Kreme backlash (and backlash to the backlash) was the latest salvo in the decades-long battle about fatness, anti-fat bias, and whether fat Americans realize that doughnuts do not have the same nutritional value as raw carrot sticks. If that sounds like a familiar dance, it is. If that sounds patronizing, well, buddy, it is.”

“Evangelicals also understand the power of narrative, which is why they’re so concerned with controlling the stories the public hears not only about themselves, but also about those of us who leave evangelicalism and tell the truth about how it has harmed us, criticizing evangelical theology as well as the racism, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ animus, and culture-warring politics that theology bolsters.”

“As presented by the Biden team, [the American Jobs Plan] represents not only an enormous total investment, but some really smart investments, in areas where the positive knock-on effects for the clean energy transition could be enormous. There were some true-blue energy wonks involved in writing this thing.”

“At any rate, the 17th Amendment isn’t going anywhere, so it may be time for the nation at large to understand it.”

“For the last few months, the primary focus of the U.S. has been getting shots to everyone who wants them, as quickly as possible. Soon, that focus will abruptly shift to convincing holdouts to get vaccinated.”

“How Gabby Giffords is using music to rewire her brain after being shot”.

Don’t depend on Greg Abbott to protect you from phony vaccine passports, learn to recognize them for yourself.

Welcome to the Freedom Cafe!

“Almost no person or entity who helped spread Trump’s election fraud lies is even attempting to back them up with evidence. In fact, most of those lie-spreaders have either partially or totally backed away from them in the face of litigation: Fox, Newsmax, OANN, Giuliani’s radio host WABC, the RNC, and two former Trump lawyers.”

“Men are sharing ways they’ve experienced sexual harassment from coworkers, friends, and total strangers. It’s an eye-opening perspective — one that isn’t often discussed.”

“Not long ago, women playing college baseball was unthinkable. Today, it’s more of a reality than ever, with opportunities opening up quickly at all levels of the collegiate game.”

Bernie Madoff has died. He doesn’t get to rest in peace.

RIP, Bob Gallarza, musician and producer, known as the “Quincy Jones of Tejano music”.

“There are other humans in this movie, which is a shame, because my antidepressants got a stress test every time they came on screen. But I suppose the world is not ready for a dialogue-free monster movie. (I mean … I am.) Alexander Skarsgård is also a scientist, but he’s haunted by loss and forced to deliver — with a face as straight as listening to Toby Keith at a gender reveal party — lines about the Hollow Earth realm from which the giant monkey and lizard hail. Brian Tyree Henry plays a podcasting conspiracy theorist looking to expose the shadowy corporate … things happening. Millie Bobby Brown is also here because she is friends with the lizard and has a good agent.”

“How “A Drive Into Deep Left Field by Castellanos” Became the Perfect Meme for These Strange Times”.

“Selena Quintanilla-Pérez’s legacy is one that has transcended generations, languages and cultures. The Tejano music star was born April 16, 1971 — today would’ve been her 50th birthday.”

Now it really is time for Texas to expand Medicaid

Good for the Biden administration putting the pressure on.

It’s constitutional – deal with it

The Biden administration on Friday rescinded changes to a federal funding agreement, known as a 1115 waiver, that would have extended for 10 years Texas’ health care safety net for uninsured residents — teeing up a new round of negotiations before the existing waiver expires in 2022.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a statement that it erred in exempting the state from the normal public notice process before granting an extension to the waiver in the waning days of the Trump administration.

The agency “has rescinded the extension approval, which corrects this oversight with as little impact as possible to the people of Texas, since the original demonstration remains intact through September 30, 2022,” it said in a statement.

The Washington Post, citing two federal health officials, said the decision was a bid to push Texas toward expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults, a move the state and eleven others have resisted.

The 1115 waiver reimburses hospitals for the “uncompensated care” they provide to patients without health insurance and pays for innovative health care projects that serve low-income Texans, often for mental health services. The extension — worth billions of dollars a year — would have continued hospital reimbursements until September 2030, but allowed the innovation fund to expire this year.

The earlier waiver is still in effect, and federal authorities “stand ready to work with the state” if it wishes to extend it beyond next year, according to a Friday letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The state’s rationale to get out of the normal public notice process was that health care providers needed financial stability during the coronavirus pandemic, the letter said. But the state’s request did not “meaningfully explain why the extension request addressed the COVID-19 public health emergency or any other sudden emergency threat to human lives,” it said, in part.

See here for some background, and be sure to click on the NBC News link in that post. The 1115 waivers were used during the Trump years to approve the skinniest and stingiest Medicaid expansions possible, and in typical Trump fashion were done with zero regard for existing law or protocol. The Chron has some more details.

While the state’s current 1115 waiver won’t expire until September of next year, the reversal has immediate political impacts because the state Legislature has only weeks left in its session and won’t meet again until 2023. Without certainty over how much the federal government will contribute going forward, lawmakers risk leaving huge funding gaps for counties and hospitals.

Texas Republicans, who control the state government, have long campaigned against the Affordable Care Act and have declined to expand Medicaid under the act’s provisions as they seek to overturn the law in court. The state has depended on the waiver system as a cheaper alternative that nonetheless leaves millions of Texans uncovered.

Today, Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country, with nearly 1 in 5 people lacking coverage. That results in staggering amounts of uncompensated emergency room visits each year, some of which is reimbursed by the 1115 waivers.

[…]

Earlier this year, a group of national health associations including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association called out the Trump administration’s expedited approval, saying there was plenty of time to hold a public comment period before the existing waiver expires next year.

“The waiver application was hundreds of pages, I don’t think it even mentioned COVID,” said Joan Alker, a Medicaid expert at Georgetown University who had signed on to the letter. “So it was a blatant disregard of what the exemption was supposed to be for.”

The Texas Hospital Association said it was disappointed with the decision.

“This action undermines the safety net and hospitals’ ability to protect people,” president Ted Shaw said in a statement. “It puts the state’s health at serious risk and creates unprecedented levels of uncertainty for an industry that is charged with saving lives.”

Others noted that the waiver was never meant to be a permanent solution.

“The waiver was always intended to serve as a temporary bridge until the state implemented an insurance option — with federal Medicaid expansion funds — for low-wage workers whose jobs don’t provide health coverage,” said Patrick Bressette, who directs the Children’s Defense Fund Texas. “Now would be a good time to have a real conversation about Medicaid expansion.”

Texas Sen. Nathan Johnson, a Democrat from Dallas who authored an expansion bill that has some Republican support, said the state should immediately reapply for the waiver while also taking up the expansion question.

“The story being told on the Republican side is Biden’s taking away resources from vulnerable people. False,” he said. “There’s still time left under the old waiver protections to do this the right way.”

I can understand why the Texas Hospital Association is unhappy with the decision, but the root of that is the failure to expand Medicaid, which has cost Texas hospitals tons of money. The waiver lets them get a few of those dollars back, but why settle for pennies when the dollars are available? Do the expansion, like we should have done a decade ago, and everyone is better off. It may be late in this session but there will need to be at least one special session for redistricting anyway, so the legislative calendar isn’t actually a problem. The choice and the benefits are clear, and the only reason not to is sheer partisan obstinance. Quit whining and get it done already.

Permitless carry

I had a hard time coming up with anything to say about the Lege passing a bill to allow anyone in Texas to carry a gun, no permit or education or license or anything else required. What is there to say? No one who supports this – and yes, there were a handful of mostly South Texas Democrats who voted for it as well – cares about gun violence except to think that more guns will somehow mitigate it. No one who supports this cares about the often-made comparison to the legal requirements one must meet in order to drive a car. No one who supports this cares that law enforcement organizations opposed this bill because it makes them less safe. No one who supports this cares that public opinion is strongly against permitless carry laws and strongly in favor of enhanced background checks and other gun control measures. No one who supports this cares that an amendment to bar “domestic terrorists and white supremacists” from carrying handguns in public was voted down. Like I said, what is there to say? Maybe the Senate won’t pass it, but I have no reason to put any hope in that. The Chron has more.

Harris County drops its vaccine waitlist

Sign up and get a shot if you haven’t already.

Harris County Public Health has ended its waitlist for COVID-19 vaccinations, County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Friday.

The new portal at ReadyHarris.org allows residents to register, after which they can pick and choose their appointment time, according to the website.

Hidalgo said there’s currently “more vaccine supply than ever” and encouraged people to sign up for vaccines, which are free and do not require insurance to receive.

She added that the county has 55,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available for next week.

You can also call to schedule an appointment at 832-927-8787. There are equity issues to deal with, but making the vaccine more widely available, and to people who don’t have Internet access, will help.