Monday, April 30, 2007

Insurers Buy AARP, Banks, Dems

by California Nurses Shum

The Big Insurance corporations have been on quite a spending spree lately, throwing money around like there's no tomorrow (and for them, there shouldn't be.) Their recent purchases include: AARP, banks, and leading Democratic political consultants—which should make you worry.  This nation is engaged in a fundamental debate over the future of healthcare, and the one group that nobody is listening to is patients.  Let's a take a look at what they're up to...

Brought to you by the National Nurses Organizing Committee as we organize to make 2007 the Year of GUARANTEED Healthcare.

Purchase 1: AARP; Cost: $1.5 Billion

For the last 50 years, AARP has existed to sell insurance policies to seniors.  They took a much more partisan turn when Bill Novelli, a Republican insider with ties to George Bush, took over the organization.  Now AARP is on the move to strengthen their ties with insurance corporations—and to strengthen those corporations in return.  First we learn that they have a new plan to make$1.5 billion in royalties  by selling Medicare Advantage plans to seniors.  Yes that's a "B" and yes those are care dollars they're skimming.  Now, compromised by this treasure, word comes that AARP is supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to force every Californian to buy private health insurance.  Why wouldn't they?  They get a cut. And patients pay the price. Sigh.

Purchase 2: Banks and Credit cards; Cost: none.
Blue Cross is starting a bank for its customers and Cerner is about to offer a credit card.  Is it just me--or is this idea completely terrifying?  Half of all medical bankruptcies are due to medical debt, and now Blue Cross wants people to bank there?  So they can just reach into your account and take what they need?  People are already incredibly dependent on their insurers, and this will make them more so.  (PS—Blue Cross just settled a suit with 900,000 doctors claiming it defrauded them; but I’m sure they’ll be a perfectly trustworthy bank.)

Purchase 3: Democratic political operatives; cost: cheap
One of the reasons that politicians are so timid on healthcare is because most of the Washington insiders who work on campaigns take money from heathcare corporations on the side.  Latest example?  Dewey Square Group, who helped run John Kerry’s and other campaigns, now have the insurance industry trade group as a major client.   They’re using their clout to strongarm Democratic politicians into supporting "Medicare Advantage," which gives insurers an 11% bonus for offering Medicare.  

While our healthcare debate is raging, all this means that the insurance corporations are steadily amassing more money, power, and influence.  There’s only one thing they’re scared of: you.

If you want to join the fight for guaranteed healthcare (with a "Medicare for All" or SinglePayer financing), sign up with, a project of the National Nurses Organizing Committee.  You can help the fight by sharing your story about surviving the healthcare industry here.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The time is now: Medicare for all

From The Politico, via Don McCanne's single payer "Quote of the Day" comes the announcement of Kennedy/Dingells version of Medicare for All.

If there is ever a time to solve our national crisis, it is now. I  believe that the best plan for the nation is to build on a program that all Americans know and respect by creating Medicare for All.  

Medicare administrative costs are low. Patient satisfaction is high.  Patients can choose their doctors and hospitals. And all Americans will be free from the fear of medical expenses and able to seek the best possible care when illness strikes.

Today, House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and I are introducing legislation to extend Medicare to all Americans, from birth to the end of life. In addition, our plan will reduce costs and improve quality, including more effective use of health information technology. It also puts a new emphasis on preventive care, because preventing illness before it occurs is always better and less expensive than treating patients after they become ill.

Our proposal will be entirely voluntary. Americans who wish to stay in their current employer-sponsored plans can do so, and employers can tailor their health plans to provide additional services to their employees that wrap around Medicare coverage. Those who prefer private insurance can choose any of the plans offered to members of Congress and the president.

For the full text of S1218 & HR2034, the "Medicare for All Act": (Insert "HR2034" into the search box, click "Bill Number" and click "Search". S1218 is the same bill, but it has not yet been posted on Thomas.)

This is far less than Representative John Conyers' HR-676. It is close to John Edwards plan insofar as it leaves in place the private for profit sector, and tries to offer a competing Federal universal insurance. It is a lot more than anything Clinton or Obama have committed to. Which says a lot more about them than about this bill.

What we do now have is several senior Democrats, who are Chairs of various key committees and subcommittees in the House and Senate backing various real reform bills.
I'm still going to work for and push both House and Senate and all presidential candidates for HR 676, but I am happy to see more and more debate and plans being discussed.

Presidential hopefuls skip best plan for health care

OpEd in The Des Moines Register

We have in America outstanding health-care facilities, excellent doctors and world-class research. What we lack is the universal health-care coverage present in all other industrial nations that provides assurance that health care will be available to us when we need it.

Many of you reading this may say, "I've got good insurance that my employer provides." Let's hope your insurer stays in business and that you never have to change jobs or go into business for yourself.

Or if you do, hope that you don't have asthma, high cholesterol, migraine or any kind of headaches, depression or anxiety disorders or the myriad of other common clinical problems that will either make you uninsurable, raise your rates or provide exclusions from coverage.

An article published in a 2005 issue of the Health Affairs journal reported that more than half of the almost 12,000 bankruptcies in Iowa were medically related, a ratio similar to the national average. Most of the people involved had health insurance of some kind, and less than 3 percent of those uninsured had been without insurance voluntarily.

Beneath the fog and rhetoric of the early stages of the presidential campaign, the main contenders for the presidency, other than Democrat Dennis Kucinich, are offering alternatives that preserve the inefficiencies and inequities of the current system. They don't adequately consider the solutions that could most effectively eliminate the deficiencies that place all of us at risk for joining the one-third of Americans who are uninsured or underinsured.

The plans proposed by the spectrum of politicians fail because they concede to insurance firms a continuing dominant role in health care. The much-publicized plan for universal coverage in Massachusetts, for example, mandates all to buy insurance. However, a 56-year-old making $30,000 annually will have to spend $7,164 in premium and deductible payments before insurance kicks in, and still pony up 20 percent of hospital costs after that, assuming no pre-existing conditions that would either increase costs further or exclude those conditions from coverage.

Such plans are insurance in name only. They leave people unable to get care and unprotected from financial ruin. The only way to simultaneously expand coverage and lower costs is through single-payer national health insurance. Every other developed nation has some form of this, yet most spend less than half what we do per person.

Nearly a third of our $2.3 trillion in health spending this year will go for administration. In their drive to enroll healthy, profitable patients and screen out the sick, private insurers waste vast sums on marketing, billing, underwriting, utilization review and other activities that sustain profits but divert resources from care. The paperwork they inflict on doctors and hospitals costs hundreds of billions more each year.

In contrast to the roughly 20 percent overhead of insurance companies, U.S. Medicare has only 3 percent overhead. Canada's single-payer program runs for 1 percent overhead. And Canada's hospitals and doctors face little paperwork burden.

Americans get scant return for our outsized spending. We already pay the highest health-care taxes in the world, and total per-capita spending is twice that of countries with better health outcomes. We already spend enough that the sum should cover universal health coverage - we just don't get it.

Studies in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere have shown that streamlining our health bureaucracy through a single public payer - a kind of "Improved Medicare for All" - would save enough new money to provide comprehensive benefits for all Americans.

We deserve better than we're getting. A single-payer system is the only economically viable reform option that will serve us better as a nation. Yet opposition from insurance and drug-industry giants continues to intimidate lawmakers and aspirants to the presidency. It is time for our leaders to stand up for the health of the American people rather than the wealth of our richest firms.

Dr. MILES WEINBERGER is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa.

Firefighter Denied Life-Saving Treatment

Tonight, Local 2 investigates why some insurance companies are refusing
to pay for potentially life-saving medical treatments. Have you looked
closely at your health insurance plan?

Chances are, you wouldn't
notice the wording we've discovered that's leaving patients and not the
insurance companies stuck paying for treatment that might save their

Local 2 investigative reporter Amy Davis found it happening all over Texas.

Imagine being told by your doctor that drugs offered in a clinical trial are now your best chance to beat deadly cancer. But
your insurance company says it won't pay for any of it. That's the
battle facing a veteran Houston firefighter, and we've found the same
thing could happen to you. "You either fight them or you give up," said Steve Jahnke, Houston Fire Department district chief.


You shouldn't have to fight your insurance company while you are trying to fight for your life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

WPR: Is Peace A Dirty Word?

On March 24th, NPR reporter Daniel Zwerdling did a report for Weekend Edition on the backlash caused by the Fairmont, Minnesota, City Council’s decision to support the creation of a Department of Peace.

A month later, Wisconson Public Radio's Jean Feraca, host of "Here On Earth, Radio Without Borders," discusses that program and "Peace" as concept and action with Daniel Zwerdling, Morton Perlmutter and two of the Fairmont citizens who were part of Zwerdling's initial story.   The discussion looks at why some people seem to fear "peace" and asks if what happened in Fairmont might be typical of the country as a whole.

I found it to be a very informative discussion so I hope you will take some time to listen to the audio file linked at the site.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Power lines in new link to childhood leukaemia

From the UK:

A leaked Government-commissioned report has raised fresh fears of a link between power lines and cancer.

The draft paper urges ministers to consider banning the building of homes and schools close to overhead high voltage power cables to reduce significantly exposure to electromagnetic fields from the electricity grid.

The Stakeholder Advisory Group on Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Radiation (Sage) says a ban is the "best available option", pointing out that some countries have "corridors" for high voltage power lines where development is not allowed.

Some stakeholders took the view - adopted by the Government's health advisers and the World Health Organisation - that childhood leukaemia is the only adverse health effect where evidence is strong enough for precautionary measures. According to this view, if there is a link, the building ban would cut just one case of childhood leukaemia every year or two and the costs would outweigh the benefits by a factor of at least 20.

But others have backed a California Department of Health Services paper in 2002 which suggested electromagnetic fields are "possibly carcinogenic" in terms of childhood leukaemia. It also cited four other health effects - adult leukaemia, adult brain tumours, miscarriages and motor neurone disease.

"The advice to government from following this 'California' view would therefore be to tend to favour implementing the 'corridors for new build' option," Sage added, stressing that this is why it has not been able to form a consensus.

The panel also recommends that the Health Protection Agency should issue more information about how to reduce the impact of exposure to electromagnetic fields.

For some years, there has been concern about cancer risks among people living near power lines. A pooled analysis of several studies suggests that the possibility exists of a doubling of the risk of leukaemia in children in homes at high levels of exposure to extremely low frequency (50-60 Hz) magnetic fields.

For the overwhelming majority of children living in homes with magnetic field levels below a given level - estimated to be 99.6 per cent of children in the UK Childhood Cancer Study - the data was consistent with no increased risk.

For higher magnetic fields levels, the leukaemia risk was estimated to be double.


Is this something that worries you?

Drought debates muddy the waters

Differences in location, and definition, mask long-term issues

Drought has been the standard forecast in the southwestern United States for the past decade, and as global warming dries out this and other regions around the world, and booming populations cause more water shortages, the word is likely to be tossed around even more.

"There is no single definition for drought," according to the National Drought Mitigation Center’s website. It is one of the planet’s most complex natural hazards, and exactly when a drought begins and ends is difficult to determine because it tends to develop gradually.

Bigger changes coming

Water shortages will affect many areas of the United States and the world, leading to “water wars” between states and countries if global temperatures continue to rise throughout the next century, as predicted in reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change..

Droughts will especially increase in subtropical areas, like the U.S. Southwest, Australia and parts of Africa and Europe, as Earth’s warming causes more evaporation and shifts weather patterns, pushing the paths of storms that bring thirst-quenching rains further north.

According to a recent study, over the coming century the Southwest will essentially transition into a state of “perpetual drought” due to the effects of global warming. This prediction leads to the questions of whether the worsening arid conditions of the Southwest should be called a drought or whether the regional climate is changing.

“The climate has changed and it’s become even a little more arid than it was,” said Trenberth, the NCAR researcher.

Other scientists disagree. According to Garfin, records of the region’s past climate show that multi-decade droughts have occurred many times before.

“I think the fact that we have multi-decade drought and that we’re in one now is not unusual, but maybe the character of [drought] is changing,” he said, referring to massive die-offs of trees and earlier snowmelts (which the parched soil can’t absorb, reducing a critical source of water supplies).

Earth Day

Tomorrow, April 22 is officially Earth Day. A time to celebrate and rededicate ourselves to the preservation of our environment. For ourselves and the next seven generations.

According to the Community Environmental Council, Earth Day

was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson after a trip he took to Santa Barbara right after that horrific oil spill off our coast in 1969. He was so outraged by what he saw that he went back to Washington and passed a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth. It was in the wake of this same tragedy that Community Environmental Council was born and began working on ways to clean up our natural resources. It is due to these events that Santa Barbara is considered the birthplace of the environmental movement. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. CEC organized a celebration again in 1990 and has done so every year since.

About the 1969 Oil Spill

On the afternoon of January 29, 1969, an environmental nightmare began in Santa Barbara, California. A Union Oil Co. platform stationed six miles off the coast of Summerland suffered a blowout. Oil workers had drilled a well down 3500 feet below the ocean floor. Riggers began to retrieve the pipe in order to replace a drill bit when the "mud" used to maintain pressure became dangerously low. A natural gas blowout occurred. An initial attempt to cap the hole was successful but led to a tremendous buildup of pressure. The expanding mass created five breaks in an east-west fault on the ocean floor, releasing oil and gas from deep beneath the earth.

For eleven days, oil workers struggled to cap the rupture. During that time, 200,000 gallons of crude oil bubbled to the surface and was spread into a 800 square mile slick by winds and swells. Incoming tides brought the thick tar to beaches from Rincon Point to Goleta, marring 35 miles of coastline. Beaches with off-shore kelp forests were spared the worst as kelp fronds kept most of the tar from coming ashore. The slick also moved south, tarring Anacapa Island's Frenchy's Cove and beaches on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands.

Ecological Impact

Animals that depended on the sea were hard hit. Incoming tides brought the corpses of dead seals and dolphins. Oil had clogged the blowholes of the dolphins, causing massive lung hemorrhages. Animals that ingested the oil were poisoned. In the months that followed, gray whales migrating to their calving and breeding grounds in Baja California avoided the channel — their main route south.

The oil took its toll on the seabird population. Shorebirds like plovers, godwits and willets which feed on sand creatures fled the area. But diving birds which must get their nourishment from the waters themselves became soaked with tar.

The Santa Barbara Zoo was among three emergency bird treatment centers established during the disaster. Volunteers were recruited to pluck oiled birds from local beaches. Grebes, cormorants and other seabirds were so sick, their feathers so soaked in oil that they were not difficult to catch. Birds were bathed in Polycomplex A-11, medicated, and placed under heat lamps to stave off pneumonia. The survival rate was less than 30 percent for birds that were treated. Many more died on the beaches where they had formerly sought their livelihoods. Those who had managed to avoid the oil were threatened by the detergents used to disperse the oil slick. The chemicals robbed feathers of the natural waterproofing used to keep seabirds afloat.

All 3686 birds were estimated to have died because of contact with oil. Aerial surveys a year later found only 200 grebes in an area that had previously drawn 4000 to 7000.

From Living Earth:

Barely a day goes by without a story on global warming or other environmental issues popping up on the news. But it wasn’t long ago that reporters had to fight to cover environmental stories for their media outlets. As part of our Earth Day coverage, Living on Earth looks at the state of environmental journalism today. Host Steve Curwood speaks with Dan Fagin, director of New York University’s Science, Health and Environment Reporting program and former Newsday reporter, Chip Giller, founder of the online environmental news journal, and Judy Muller, professor at the Annenberg School of Communication and former ABC News reporter.

Download as an mp3

Health insurer extends AARP deal

AARP seems to be interested more in selling junk insurance than acting on behalf of the seniors it purports to lobby for.

UnitedHealth Group and AARP will announce today that they have agreed to extend and broaden contracts that enable the health insurer to sell Medicare products under the powerful AARP brand.

The announcement of a 7-year extension to their marketing agreement puts to rest speculation that UnitedHealth's stock-option scandal would endanger the deal and that AARP would find a new partner. The current 10-year contract expires at the end of the year.

AARP, a lobbying and interest group representing millions of U.S. citizens over 50, is one of UnitedHealth's most significant customers and provides an enormous sales vehicle into the aging population.

The new agreements, which take effect Jan. 1, provide UnitedHealth with a pipeline to AARP's nearly 38 million members.

 "The fact that it is being continued is a positive unto itself," said Thomas Carroll, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus in Baltimore.

In 1998, UnitedHealth signed a 10-year deal with AARP to offer certain products to AARP members; in 2005, the relationship was expanded to include an exclusive partnership to market drug plans under Medicare's prescription drug program, called Part D.

Last year, analysts began speculating about whether a renewed contract with AARP would be threatened after errors in UnitedHealth's stock-option granting practices came to light. At an investor's conference in New York in December, analysts questioned company officials. Worries were that AARP would view the link with
UnitedHealth as troublesome.

AARP Contracts With Aetna, UnitedHealthcare To Expand Available Health Insurance Policies To People Ages 50 To 64, Quality-of-Care To Be Measured

AARP officials on Monday announced plans to expand the number of health insurance products offered by the group that will target U.S. residents ages 50 to 64 who lack coverage, the Wall Street Journal reports (Fuhrmans, Wall Street Journal, 4/17). As part of the expansion, AARP in 2008 will begin to market with Aetna a PPO for U.S. residents ages 50 to 64, as well as a high-deductible health plan possibly linked with a health savings account. AARP said that underwriting practices for the health plans for such residents -- who "often find that health insurance is unavailable or unaffordable" in the individual coverage market -- will "be less stringent than those of many commercial insurers," although the plans will deny coverage to some sick residents, according to the New York Times (Pear, New York Times, 4/17).

AARP initially will market the health plans in about half of the states. In addition, AARP in January 2008 will begin to market with UnitedHealth Group a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in the plan will have no monthly premiums but will have to make copayments for physician visits and prescription drugs. AARP initially will market the plan in about half of the states (Appleby/Wolf, USA Today, 4/17). The plan is "guaranteed to be in the Medicare marketplace for two years," although premiums and copays could change after the first year, Dawn Sweeney, CEO of AARP Services, said. AARP also will continue to offer Medigap plans (New York Times, 4/17). The new plans likely will double the number of residents who receive health insurance through AARP and UnitedHealth by 2014, according to Sweeney (Phelps, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 4/17). AARP CEO William Novelli said, "In launching these initiatives, we are driven by our mission to create a healthier America" (New York Times, 4/17).

Back in 2003 when AARP got on the Medicare Part D bandwagon, Physicians for a National Health Program pretty much laid out the AARP plan:

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) derives significant income from the sale of health and life insurance policies, and stands to make hundreds of millions more under the Medicare Prescription Drug bill now being debated before Congress. Yet the AARPís financial interests in the bill have received scant attention.

:: ::

We believe the AARPs huge insurance business helps explain why it has endorsed a bill that threatens the future of Medicare and the health of Americaís seniors. Under the proposed Medicare legislation the AARP would almost surely reap hundreds of millions of dollars in additional insurance revenues over the next decade. The Medicare bill would pump $400 billion in Federal Government money into new Medigap drug policies over the next decade. At present, the AARPís profit from its huge insurance sales amounts to 3.9% of the insurance premiums it collects. If AARPís partners were to capture even 10% of the new Medicare prescription drug coverage market, their premiums would amount $40 billion, and the AARPs profits would be $1.56 billion.

The Medicare prescription drug bill offers huge payoffs to the drug industry, private insurers, and some large employers. It would provide paltry benefits to Medicare recipients and take a giant step toward privatizing Medicare. In effect, the AARP leadership has shamefully agreed to sell out its members in exchange for the organizationís financial gain.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Health Care in France

Jerome a Paris is a Frenchman who blogs on Daily Kos as well as the European Tribune. He has a 4 year old son who was diagnosed with a brain tumor 2 years ago. For a while, after surgery and chemotherapy, they thought he was cured, then last fall, it was discovered that the tumor had returned.

Today he wrote a diary about the numerous tests and surgeries and aftercare his son has been through; how his wife had to be available to take the boy to all his various therapies and how it was all paid for.

So, we did not have to spend a single cent. We got support to be available for him. He gets top notch treatment. We never had to wait for anything. And this is available to absolutely everybody in France, irrespective of your job, age or family situation. If you are badly sick or injured, you simply do not have to worry about money at any time, nor about lack of care.

An interesting twist to that story is that we do have private healthcare insurance in France. Basic healthcare is covered by social security, but only partly: except for the poor (under a certain income level), there are co-payments for most expenses like medecine and doctor visits, and doctors are also allowed to charge you more than the official tariff (and you have to pay the difference, in addition to the co-payment on the official price).

Thus many people buy private (or mutual) insurance to cover that difference partly or fully. Such insurance is often provided by your employer. But whenever you have "major" expenses, you switch to 100% coverage of expenses by the public system - except that, if you had a private insurer, it has to pay to the public entity a portion of the costs.

In my case, as I had a good insurance via my bank, this is what's happening, and thus the private sector bears a portion of "catastrophic risk." (And they have no say in what care is provided. They just pay an agreed fraction of it.)

Thus there is solidarity across the sytem.

:: ::

This is not to say that all is well in French healthcare. As in other countries, costs are barely under control, spending increases every year, and there are many ways the system could be improved for doctors, nurses and patients. But the fact remains that if you are badly ill, you will be taken care of; you will not need to give up your job (or if you do, you're helped); you will not need to sell your house; and you will not be denied healthcare (see my second comment below).

It's been tough enough to deal with a sick child; I simply do not want to imagine what it would have been like if I had to beg for care or to scurry around for money in addition. It's just inconceivable. And thus, I was happy to pay taxes before, and I'm really, really happy to pay taxes now to provide that level of care for those that really need it.

For many American, trying to cope with an illness is devastating. Trying to then cope with, figure out and stay on top of all of the paperwork and fighting with insurance companies that result is simply impossible. It is past time to change the American system to one of Universal Health care for all.

Some more perspectives from comments in that diary:

My wife was pregnant in Vancouver in 2005. She'd had health issues with her reproductive system and wasn't supposed to be able to get pregnant, so we counted ourselves lucky.

Then we hit the health system.

*  Three ultrasounds.

Three visits to the OB/GYN to prep.

Four visits to the family doctor.

Parenting and childbirth classes every Wednesday for two months.

Two visits to the hospital - both false alarms, but both resulting in half a day of bed time.

Two dedictaed nurses at hand during the delivery, plus the OB/GYN, plus an anasthesiologist.

When complications arose, the head of surgery came around to discuss a C-section as an option.

She had the C-section, with eight doctors, nurses, specialist, etc in the room. No problems, baby healthy.

Five nights in hospital after giving birth - private room.

Post-natal instruction from lactation specialist and parenting consultants.

Once home, weekly visits by nurses, further visit from lactation specialist, just to be sure all was well.

All vaccinations and several visits to the family doctor to ensure the baby is developing well.

For all of that, no charge. Nothing. Nada. No private health insurance required.

So what was our horror story? A month after we were out of hospital, we got a bill for $25 for the TV rental in my wife's room.

$5 a day for a TV! Outrageous!

Posted at:

From Denmark:

Family member diagnosed with leukemia at age 11. Got cutting edge treatment at no cost. Mother got a stipend for one year to stay home as caregiver. We are seven years out and he is cancer free. I believe he is now allowed to consider himself cured.

No bake sales, no agony for the family, no huge deductibles and co-pays. Just the dignity of quality medical care and the freedom to focus on getting well. His dad used to like to bitch about the high tax rate (it's sort of a national past-time there) but he sure knows it was worth it.

And best - as this young man approaches adulthood - no worries that he's tapped out the limit on a policy, his medical history has not caused his father's small business to die under the crushing weight of increased premiums due to his medical history or worse to have their insurance cancelled as would have happened here. And he has no worries that he'll be tagged with the dreaded label "uninsurable" for his entire adulthood.


My brother in law spent 14 months in hospital...

In the UK. He had Guillame Barre syndrome. Fourteen months in hospital. Two complete blood transfusions. Months of intense after care. Cost: nothing. Estimated cost in USA $3-4million, no insurance death. You Decide.

Healthcare coverage in Norway

Is very similar. The co-pay for all residents of Norway maxes out at around $200-300 per year. Medicines for most chronic ailments are also covered by this co-pay. Life-threatening illness is covered %100 from the get-go.

Kids under 12 have full coverage and no co-pay. The poor and the elderly have good plans as well.

Comparisons between the French system and that of the United States:

Real growth (adjusted for inflation) in health care spending per annum
United States: 3.2%
France: 2.3%

Total health care funding (public and private) per capita
United States: $4,631
France: $2,349

Health care spending as a percent of GDP
United States: 13.9%
France: 9.4%

Life expectancy in healthy years (women)
France: 73.5 years
United States: 68.8 years

Life expectancy in healthy years (men)
France: 69 years
United States: 66.4 years

Infant deaths per 1,000 live births
United States: 6.43
France: 4.31

One can take virtually any health care statistic you want: If it's results, we do worse than just about any other developed country, but if it's costs, we pay more than any other developed country.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Why we need a Department of Peace

Azim Khamisa and Marianne Williamson discuss violence in our culture and a possible solution to the same.

Violence and Silence

by Jeffrey Feldman

In the face of great tragedy, what often distinguishes Americans from
other national cultures is our incredible ability to talk about our
pain in public as a way of healing.  

When horror strikes, we do not buckle over alone and stay silent,
but walk into the public square, reach out to one another and chew our
way through the pain.   It is in these moments that Americans--all too
often self-absorbed with the day-to-day of making ends meet--find each
other again, share the details of the people we have lost, and remember
that we are not alone.  

As  I watched the public response to the tragic violence in
Blacksburg, I was filled with sorrow in the face of all the death, but
my sorrow quickly found a place with the outpouring of voices that has
risen up in response.  Due to the tireless voices, I now know the names
and faces of many of the people killed as their stories fan out across
the media and take root in our hearts.

But in the midst of all the past 48 hours of talking, crying and
slow healing, I have also been left--as have many--with a  question
almost too painful to ask:  Why have we not been able, neither as a as
a nation nor as individuals, to talk about the violence and pain
suffered by Americans and by Iraqis?  Why does the violence in
Blacksburg bring out the very best in our American character--our
ability to join together and heal--while the recurring violence in
Baghdad--experienced by Americans and Iraqis alike--has left us sitting


Murder by Spreadsheet

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) slipped out the door of an overcrowded
and overheated markup on a Democratic-backed prescription drug bill
late Thursday night.

While he conferred with an aide, a pharmaceutical lobbyist sidled up
to the ranking Republican. The lobbyist pressed Grassley about the
filibuster intentions of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
and whether fence-sitters in his party, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of
South Carolina, might defect to the Democrats. Grassley said he didn't

The exchange illustrated the pharmaceutical lobby's wavering
confidence in the bill's future. Pharmaceutical lobbyists trained their
focus on the Senate floor this week as Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid (D-Nev.) introduced the bill Tuesday. The bill, which Finance
Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) filed Friday, seeks to tweak
Medicare's prescription drug plan.

Lobbyists raised a few eyebrows when the Senate Finance
Committee scheduled the markup for the bill late Thursday, at 6:40 p.m.
Nonetheless, they packed the cramped committee room. Several lobbyists
paid placeholders, some of whom started waiting before 11 a.m., to
secure prime spots for the standing-room-only markup.


Insurer: Covering drugs during Medicare gap too costly

The gap in Medicare's prescription drug coverage is looking deeper.

For the second time in two years, a major insurer that covered brand-name drugs in the "doughnut hole" has said it's losing money on the drug plan and pulling it off the market at the end of the year.

As a result, seniors who depend on costly medications to treat chronic or serious illnesses are left to wonder, again, where to turn for comprehensive drug coverage next year.

Democrats' Drug Price Bill Blocked in Senate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bill that would let the U.S. government negotiate prices for Medicare prescription drugs stalled in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday when Republican opponents blocked a vote on the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fell five votes short of the 60 needed to end a Republican filibuster and move to a vote on the bill. A filibuster is a tactic for delaying or obstructing legislation by making long speeches.

Democrats said they were not giving up on the bill and would try again.

The VT shootings leaves this military mother numb

Posted by a military mom at Daily Kos:

With my Marine son just back from Iraq two days ago, following my having to endure 203 straight days of reading reports such as above -- during which time another 604 U.S. troops were killed -- I'm finding it difficult to register much more than numbness over 32 people being shot dead in Virginia.

And yes, my "is that all?" reaction bothers me. But is it surprising?

inured to such violence is a terrible shock. Feeling numb towards the
loss of life of innocent students and professors going about their
daily lives is not something I ever expected to feel.

This disturbs me to no end.

Most of us, meanwhile, will never have the need or desire to massacre a group of innocents to quell our inner rage.

But numbness towards such acts? If it can happen to me -- an otherwise loving mother who has fought off panic attacks nearly every
day for the past seven months -- it can happen to anyone. And I can
only blame it on war, this war in Iraq -- its images, its
pointlessness, its unending four-year-old cycle of tragic death, in the
tens of thousands, on all sides.

I don't want to feel indifferent about "only" 32 innocent lives
ended by a madman. But while this war rages on, I do. And that is
tragic in itself.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Our Mission: Single-Payer National Health Insurance

From Physicians for a National Health Program

"The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on
health care, $7,129 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in
comparison and still leaves 46 million without health coverage and
millions more inadequately covered.

"This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume
one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining
payment though a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350
billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality
coverage for all Americans."