Sunday, March 29, 2009

Insurance Industry is Simply a Parasite on the US Health System

by Dave Lindorff

As the country contemplates a major reform and restructuring of the way we run our national health care system (if it can even be called that), it needs to be pointed out that the mammoth health insurance industry is nothing but a parasite on that system.

Health insurance companies add zero value to the delivery of health care. Indeed, they are a significant cost factor that sucks up, according to some estimates such as one by the organization Physicians for a National Health Program, as much as 31 percent of every dollar spent on medical services (a percentage that has been rising steadily year after year).

Insurance companies are damaging in more ways than simply cost, though.

They also actively interfere in the delivery of quality medical care, as anyone who has had to battle with some "nurse" on the phone at an insurance company to get required pre-authorization for needed procedure can attest. Just recently, the editor of a local weekly alternative paper in Philadelphia, Brian Hinkey, the victim of a near fatal hit-and-run accident last year who spent several days in a coma, and has been working hard to regain the use of all his limbs and faculties, reported in an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer on how his insurer after a few successful weeks of in-hospital rehab, denied him coverage for six critical weeks for out-patient rehab services, though every specialist on head injuries knows that early, consistent therapy is crucial to recovery of lost brain function.

This kind of human abuse is standard operating procedure for companies whose bottom lines are fattened the more services they can deny to insured clients. My own father, once doomed by a metastasized cancer following prostate surgery, was saved by a procedure offered by a physician in Atlanta that his Blue Cross plan in Connecticut refused to pay for. He had to finance the expensive treatment himself.

Now these medical system parasites are suddenly running scared, because it is clear that if everyone in America is to be guaranteed health insurance coverage--a promised goal of the new administration of President Barack Obama, and, according to polls, the desire of a large majority of the American people--they are going to stand exposed as a costly impediment to achieving that goal.

Insurance companies have managed to stay profitable and at least somewhat affordable to the private employers and workers who, together, have to pay for them, by denying care not just to policy holders, who are denied certain tests and treatments but especially to those who have known ailments, who are simply denied coverage altogether.

For decades, people with "pre-existing conditions" have been either barred from coverage, or have had to sign waivers that excluded them from getting coverage for treatment of those pre-existing conditions. In the worst case, which is all too common, people have ended up dying because they couldn't get treatment for common and easily treated ailments like high blood pressure or diabetes.

Now we hear that two big insurance trade groups, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and America's Health Insurance Plans, have offered to "phase out the practice of varying premiums based on health status in the individual market" in the event that all Americans are required to obtain health insurance.

Well sure they're doing that. If they didn't, the government would force them to! The insurance industry, in saying that it would not price sick people out of coverage in a nationally-mandated health insurance scheme, is merely recognizing the political firestorm that would arise if it were not to do that, and were to force the sick and inform onto some government insurance plan, subsidized by taxpayers, while they just cherry-picked the healthy population, as they've been doing now for decades.

The whole point is that if everyone is included in the insurance pool, instead of only the healthy population, then the overall cost of being chronically or critically ill to the individual is spread over the whole of society. Premiums get adjusted accordingly.

Medicare is the model. Here we already have a government plan that covers every single elderly and disabled person.

If we were to simply extend Medicare to cover everyone in America, we would essentially have the Canadian model of health care (which, it should be pointed out, costs half what we pay in America for health care when private insurance and government programs are added together). As with current Medicare, the government would pay for treatment, with private doctors and hospitals providing the care, and with the government negotiating the permissible charges. That, in a nutshell, is what "single-payer" means--the government is the single payer for all health care. It doesn't mean, as the right-wing critics claim in their scaremongering propaganda, that people would be forced to use certain doctors and certain hospitals. Far from it. That's what private HMOs do.

Medicare is efficient (only 3.6% of Medicare's budget goes to administrative costs, compared to 31% for health care delivered through private insurance plans), its clients like it, and doctors and hospitals accept it.

We should not be tricked by this seeming sudden appearance of decency on the part of these corporate parasites. There is simply no valid reason for preserving the private insurance industry's role in any health care reform plan that is aimed at giving everyone access to health care in America. The Obama administration needs to jettison its "free market" fetish when it comes to health care. The financing of health care for all Americans can all be handled much better by the government. Medicare has proven this. Other countries--Britain, Australia, France, Canada, Taiwan and most other modern nations have proven this.

Leave the insurance industry to handle our car insurance and our life insurance. It has no more place in the delivery of health care than do tapeworms in the digestive process of our bowels.

Source - The Smirking Chimp

Friday, March 27, 2009

Patient Money - Going Abroad to Find Affordable Health Care -

"At least 85,000 Americans choose to travel abroad for medical procedures each year, according to a recent report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Treatment includes dental implants, hip and knee replacements, heart valve replacements and bypass surgery. The cost of surgery performed overseas can be as little as 20 percent of the price of the same procedure in the United States, according to a recent report by the American Medical Association.

Medical tourism is expected to expand quickly in the coming years because of rising health care costs in the United States, increasing availability of international facilities with United States accreditation, and the fact that insurers and employers are beginning to embrace the practice."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Health Insurers Offer Lollipops and Unicorns with New Reform Concessions | Crooks and Liars

"Do we ignore the fact that because other countries don't have for-profit systems, they enjoy what is to Americans an almost unimaginable degree of medical security?

Or should we welcome this apparent change of heart and look at it in a vacuum, pretending the insurance industry doesn't have a long and ugly track record of egregious abuses and immoral behavior? Should we just call a mulligan and pretend they're now negotiating in good faith?

Because really, I'm not feeling it. I'm just not that trusting. I believe Howard Dean when he says, 'If there's no public plan, it's not real reform'"

WASHINGTON —The health insurance industry said Tuesday that it was willing to end the practice of charging higher premiums to sick people if Congress adopted a comprehensive plan that provided coverage to all Americans.

The industry’s flexible position on the issue came as a surprise to lawmakers, and could make it easier to reach an agreement in Congress because it narrows the issues on which insurers are ready to fight the Democrats who control Congress and the White House.

Insurers said they were still staunchly opposed to creation of a new government-run health insurance plan, which, under many Democratic proposals, would compete directly with private insurers.

In effect, insurers said they were willing to discard an element of their longstanding business model, under which insurance policies are priced, in part, on the basis of a person’s medical condition or history.

In the past, insurers have warned that if they could not consider a person’s health in setting premiums, the rates charged to young, healthy people would soar, making coverage unaffordable.

But Karen M. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a major trade group, told lawmakers on Tuesday that insurers were exploring ideas to prevent such increases by spreading the risks and costs across a larger population of both healthy and unhealthy people.

Insurers said that they could accept more aggressive regulation of not just their premiums but also their benefits, underwriting practices and other activities. Such strict regulation, they said, would make a new public program unnecessary.

The insurers set forth their position at a Senate hearing on Tuesday and in letters to the Democratic chairmen and senior Republican members of the two Senate committees primarily responsible for health care legislation.

The letters were signed by Ms. Ignagni and Scott P. Serota, president of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, who presided over the hearing, welcomed the insurers’ position.

“It was a significant step for them to take,” Mr. Bingaman said in an interview. “That’s certainly not been their position in previous years. I hope it moves us closer to something that we could label a consensus.”

In other words, they'll accept just about anything that won't put these devoted lovers of the free market in competition with a government-run program like Medicare. And after all, we don't want to hurt their feelings!

Robert Koehler: Gold for Humanity

"This begins to get at it -- what 'peace' can mean and why it's our future, if we are to have a future. It's not the naive, wishful thinking of the inexperienced, as it's so often portrayed; nor is it a tense and temporary armed standoff between adversaries; nor is it a wall, a barbed-wire fence, that keeps 'them' out.

Rather, peace is a primal cry of the soul, a naked groping for commonality. It is eye contact with 'the enemy' and, when necessary, the acceptance of a greater burden of responsibility than anyone could reasonably be expected to bear."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Protests at White House healthcare hearing in Iowa | Reuters


DES MOINES, Iowa - The latest White House regional forum on healthcare drew protests and complaints on Monday along with a promise that government-run insurance was at least on the table for discussion.

"Why are we having this shameful event?" said Mona Shaw, a political activist, at the start of the session. "People are dying," she said, because of what she termed a callous insurance industry.

Iowa Governor Chet Culver who chaired the event cued up a video message from President Barack Obama as security personnel escorted Shaw from the room.

It was the third of five regional meetings which Obama hopes would help Congress figure out how to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system, which is the most expensive in the world even though some 46 million Americans have no health insurance.

Obama plans to make sweeping changes to the system this year to try to cut the number of uninsured while improving the quality of care and controlling costs that are forecast to reach $2.5 trillion dollars this year.

About 20 protesters at the meeting waved signs and chanted "Everybody in, nobody out" -- a demand for universal coverage.

Dr. Jess Fiedorowicz, a psychiatrist at the University of Iowa Hospitals who was with the protest group, told the meeting a majority of Americans support a "single payer" or government-run national health insurance program.

"Can we put it on the table for discussion?" Fiedorowicz asked Nancy-Ann De Parle, director of the White House Office on Health Reform.

"Can we study costing? Can we study feasibility of this truly universal, socially just and fiscally responsible alternate to our currently unjust and woefully inefficient system?" Fiedorowicz asked. Many in the crowd applauded.

Vashti Winterburg, 61, co-chair of Kansas Health Care for All, said she opposes any plan that keeps health insurance companies in business.

She said the Kansas nonprofit board she serves on is finding it more and more difficult to pay the premiums of workers who provide in-home care to the elderly.

Chris Peterson, 53, who farms near Clear Lake, Iowa, said he cannot buy private health insurance for his wife or himself two years after his insurance carrier dropped them. They now have $14,000 in medical debt.

Health Reform Lessons from Massachusetts, Part I

By Trudy Lieberman:

Three years ago the Commonwealth of Massachusetts enacted a far-reaching health reform law that politicians and the media hailed as a model for other states and the federal government. Indeed that law has become the major blueprint for health system change on a national scale, and its advocates are aggressively marketing some variation of the Massachusetts plan as the reform of choice. Until recently, there has been little analysis of how the law has worked. Today we begin a series of posts that will explore the Massachusetts law with an eye toward helping the press and the public understand the flashpoints as legislation based on the Bay State’s experiment winds its way through Congress.

Until recently, few have criticized the program. One health care provider who asked for anonymity told me: “Nobody wants to be quoted as going against Senator Kennedy. Nobody wants to be the one who says the emperor has no clothes. If you or your organization speaks out, you get cut off politically.”

Friday, March 20, 2009


A new blog with feeds providing constant updates on discussions about Single Payer happening in the news and on line.

Single Payer Publicly Funded Universal Healthcare
Information & Resource Center

Monday, March 16, 2009

YouTube - Getting ready for Earth Hour

Earch Hour - March 28th - Mark Your Calendar

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Health Sector Has Donated Millions to Lawmakers -

"Health insurers and their employees contributed $2.2 million to the top 10 recipients in the House and Senate since 2005, while drug makers and their employees gave more than $3.3 million to top lawmakers during that period, according to an analysis of federal elections data by Consumer Watchdog, a California-based advocacy group.

The biggest beneficiaries in the Senate included John McCain (R-Ariz.), with $546,000; Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), with $425,000; and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), with $413,000, who as head of the Finance Committee will play a leading role in the debate over health-care reform."

International Scientific Congress on Climate Change: Key Messages

Not looking too good.

"Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised. For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Real Choice in Health Care: A Story and Cry for Help

A doctor writes . . . :

Recently, however, Mr. Alipate had received in the mail a glossy booklet explaining that he now had 'more choices' for his health care coverage. He reviewed the booklet with the assistance of his American-born nephew but, confused by the options, called the 'help' number for assistance. He only had one fundamental question of the choices: Could he continue to see his personal physician and the specialists I recommended? Reassured by the agent at the other end of the line he elected an HMO Medicare Advantage Plan offered by Humana.

The problem is, the agent was wrong, or misleading. I am not in their network. Indeed, in our heavily populated suburban community there are only two physician practices within a five mile radius of my office which are contracted to see Humana Medicare Advantage patients.

Medicare advantage plans, a privately administered version of Medicare, were created by offering private companies an average 12% premium over the average costs of treating Medicare patients. They in turn use a portion of this premium payment to "enhance" the traditional Medicare benefit package to lure patients into their programs.

The problems with this arrangement, however, are manifold: Although this has resulted in enhanced benefit packages, the marketing of these enhanced benefits has been focused upon the healthiest of Medicare recipients, thus "creaming" the Medicare program and contributing to its financial difficulties. Those enhancements which are offered do not in total equal in value the increased cost to Medicare; a substantial portion of the 12% premium payment is retained for corporate profits and bureaucratic infrastructure. The basic structure is unfair: If there is to be an enhancement to Medicare, why should it accrue only to those who manage to sign up with a Medicare advantage plan? Finally, the "enhancements" may be misleading: As in Mr. Alipate's case..... there is always a dramatic reduction in choice of physicians when one signs on to a Medicare Advantage plan.

It is easy to see that even a prominent spokesman for Obamaesque health care reform really knows that only single payer reform can solve our nations health care crisis, he just finds it politically unfeasible.

Political infeasibility is no excuse for failing to advocate for the best solution to our problems. I am struck in my daily practice of medicine by how the overwhelming majority of my diverse patient population supports the kind of change I and untold others are advocating.

Phantoms In The Snow: Canadians' Use Of Health Care Services In The United States -- Health Affairs

This is an old study - but since the myth about Canadians flocking to the United States for health care is circulating again, I felt it worthwhile to bring it back out.

by Steven J. Katz, Karen Cardiff, Marina Pascali, Morris L. Barer and Robert G. Evans

PROLOGUE: Over the past three decades, particularly during periods when the U.S. Congress has flirted with the enactment of national health insurance legislation, the provincial health insurance plans of Canada have been a subject of fascination to many Americans. What caught their attention was the system’s universal coverage; its lower costs; and its public, nonprofit administration. The pluralistic U.S. system, considerably more costly and innovative, stands in many ways in sharp contrast to its Canadian counterpart. What has remained a constant in the dialogue between the countries is that their respective systems have remained subjects of condemnation or praise, depending on one’s perspective.

Throughout the 1990s, opponents of the Canadian system gained considerable political traction in the United States by pointing to Canada’s methods of rationing, its facility shortages, and its waiting lists for certain services. These same opponents also argued that "refugees" of Canada’s single-payer system routinely came across the border seeking necessary medical care not available at home because of either lack of resources or prohibitively long queues.

This paper by Steven Katz and colleagues depicts this popular perception as more myth than reality, as the number of Canadians routinely coming across the border seeking health care appears to be relatively small, indeed infinitesimal when compared with the amount of care provided by their own system. Katz is an associate professor in the Departments of Medicine and Health Policy and Management at the University of Michigan. Karen Cardiff is a research associate at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Health Services and Policy Research. Also at the University of British Columbia are Morris Barer, professor and director at the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research’s Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, and Robert Evans, professor at the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research’s Department of Economics. Marina Pascali is a Dallas-based health care consultant.

A tip without an iceberg? This study was undertaken to quantify the nature and extent of use by Canadians of medical services provided in the United States. It is frequently claimed, by critics of single-payer public health insurance on both sides of the border, that such use is large and that it reflects Canadian patients’ dissatisfaction with their inadequate health care system. All of the evidence we have, however, indicates that the anecdotal reports of Medicare refugees from Canada are not the tip of a southbound iceberg but a small number of scattered cubes. The cross-border flow of care-seeking patients appears to be very small.


Healthcare Enemy No. 1

About Rick Scott - the millionaire Republican heading up Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR), a new group that plans to pend around $20 million to kill President Obama's efforts at healthcare reform. Scott "made his fortune (which, yes, he still has) in no small part thanks to steady contract fees from the Great Society's entitlement programs."

Cancer Story Stands Out at White House Forum

White House Regional Forum on Health Care Reform - Dearborn, MI

DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) - Participants at the first White House Regional Forum on Health Care Reform heard from many people who have horror stories about their health care.

One participant was Adrian Campbell Montgomery. The young mother told the crowd about her battles with cancer. At 22 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, but was denied a common treatment because she was too young. The surgery doctors wanted for her was only recommended was patients 26-years-old or older.

Montgomery was able to recover, but 4 years later she is still in debt from the treatments. Montgomery, who has no health insurance, has also been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She says the diagnoses alone has already put her another $10,000 in debt.

The next four forums will be held at:

Burlington, Vermont - Tuesday, March 17th
Des Moines, Iowa - March 23rd
Greensboro, North Carolina - March 31st
Los Angeles, California - April 6th

If you live in any of these areas, you can submit a question and ask to attend at Go, submit a question, and ask for an invite.

If you want to participate in our rallies, or want more information about them, go to the Healthcare-Now! Rally Page.

Remember, a clear majority of physicians and Americans support Medicare for all. So we need to make sure that single-payer is given fair standing with other reform options in every congressional committee with jurisdiction over healthcare reform and any health reform activities sponsored by the Obama Administration.

World's leading scientists in desperate plea to politicians to act on climate change - Telegraph

"The world's leading scientists yesterday issued a desperate plea to politicians to act on climate change, amid warnings that without action the world faces decades of social unrest and war."

Yoko Ono: The Stanford Lecture 2009 - Part 1/4 on Vimeo

Yoko Ono: The Stanford Lecture 2009 - Part 1/4 from Yoko Ono on Vimeo.

Part 1/4: Childhood.

Yoko Ono's lecture at Stanford University on 14 Jan 2009.
Exclusively on Vimeo courtesy of Yoko Ono, Stanford University &

NB Part 2/4 is the documentary 'Yoko Ono: Passages For Light' also viewable on Vimeo.

YouTube - Groups Protest Health Insurance Heavyweights

Congressman Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) led a protest Monday outside the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington, site of the 2009 national conference of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a trade group for the health insurance industry.

YouTube - They See Money

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Associated Press: Fed reports record fall in household net worth

"The net worth of American households fell by the largest amount in more than a half-century of record keeping during the fourth quarter of last year.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that household net worth dropped by a record 9 percent from the level in the third quarter."

GMs Healthcare Double Standard -- In These Times

Time to bring this back from 2005:

"The Canadian plan has been a significant advantage for investing in Canada," says GM Canada spokesman David Patterson, noting that in the United States, GM spends $1,400 per car on health benefits. Indeed, with the provinces sharing 75 percent of the cost of Canadian healthcare, it’s no surprise that GM, Ford and Chrysler have all been shifting car production across the border at such a rate that the name "Motor City" should belong to Windsor, not Detroit.

Just two years ago, GM Canada’s CEO Michael Grimaldi sent a letter co-signed by Canadian Autoworkers Union president Buzz Hargrave to a Crown Commission considering reforms of Canada’s 35-year-old national health program that said, "The public healthcare system significantly reduces total labour costs for automobile manufacturing firms, compared to their cost of equivalent private insurance services purchased by U.S.-based automakers." That letter also said it was "vitally important that the publicly funded healthcare system be preserved and renewed, on the existing principles of universality, accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness and public administration," and went on to call not just for preservation but for an “updated range of services." CEOs of the Canadian units of Ford and DaimlerChrysler wrote similar encomiums endorsing the national health system."

How can the same corporations that in Canada recognize the bottom-line logic of a national health system be so opposed to the idea here?

Good question. And the answer is....

One answer is ideology. The notion of having the government take over an industry that represents about 15 percent of the U.S. economy gives U.S. executives the willies. But in backing insurance company interests, GM runs counter to both its own business interests and the sentiments of many customers.

Wonder if GM U.S wishes they had made a different choice now.

Report: US on short end of health care 'value gap' -

The report from the Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs of major companies, says America's health care system has become a liability in a global economy.
Americans spend $2.4 trillion a year on health care. The Business Roundtable report says Americans in 2006 spent $1,928 per capita on health care, at least two-and-a-half times more per person than any other advanced country.

The United States is 23 points behind five leading economic competitors: Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France. The five nations cover all their citizens, and though their systems differ, in each country the government plays a much larger role than in the U.S.

The cost-benefit disparity is even wider _ 46 points _ when the U.S. is compared with emerging competitors: China, Brazil and India.

Other countries spend less on health care and their workers are relatively healthier, the report said.

So you have to ask how they logically reach this conclusion:
The CEOs of the Business Roundtable believe health care for U.S. workers and their families should stay in private hands, with a government-funded safety net for low-income people.

Oh yeah, they are asking people like the CEO of the insurance company Cigna what he thinks. Protect profit at all costs is how. Fools.

Newly Formed 150,000-Strong Nurses' Union Pushes for Single-Payer Healthcare

"Three of the country’s top organizations of direct care registered nurses have come together to form a new national nurses’ union that is advocating for a single-payer national health insurance program. The new union unifies the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, United American Nurses, and the Massachusetts Nurses Association into a 150,000-member association, making it the largest registered nurses union in US history. We speak with Geri Jenkins, a registered nurse and co-president of the union."

Beckel Admits To Hannity: Fox's Health Plan Rejected Me

"HANNITY: I'm on the Fox Plan and the AFTRA Plan. I have no clue what insurance I have. I don't have a special health care plan! I have the same plan that you do.

BECKEL: No you don't. I don't have a health insurance plan.

HANNITY: You work for FOX, you're on the FOX plan.

BECKEL: I don't qualify for the Fox plan, because I have a pre-existing condition."

Note that Hannity has health insurance thanks to a UNION! AFTRA Plan = the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a union.

Sick in the head: Why America won't get the health-care system it needs—By Luke Mitchell (Harper's Magazine)

A must read:

"In the United States today, we can use our belief in numbers, which borders on the religious, to rationalize any amount of inequity. We can tell ourselves that we can’t have a system that guarantees health care to every American because such a system would be “inefficient.” We can tell ourselves that we must accept a world in which children suffering from post-traumatic stress don’t get any help because the numbers don’t support it. We can tell ourselves that we must trust our health to insurance companies, that markets are wiser than doctors, that we can afford every technology. We tell ourselves stories and we rationalize our prejudices, and, unless we are willing to more specifically address the “social determinants of health,” as Dr. Tsou said, we will continue to drift toward a change far more substantive than anything currently under consideration in Congress, a change suited to the few who care to exert their will. It may be a revolutionary system of corporate medical control, or a catastrophic financial collapse resulting from hubristic overtreatment, or a medical crisis stemming from some seemingly minor flaw in the heuristics of the integrated delivery network, or just a further increase in the massive inequities that already disgrace our current system. Whatever that change is, though, it will in the end be defined by the passivity of a people that has sacrificed its own, dem ocratic power of large numbers on the altar of strange and unstated beliefs."

Poll: 73% of Voters Think Health Care Reform Must Include Choice of a Public Health Insurance Plan

"73% of voters want everyone to have a choice of private health insurance or a public health insurance plan while only 15% want everyone to have private insurance."

Recession likely to lead to more deaths, researcher predicts | Dallas Morning News

"The current recession is likely to lead to a surge in deaths as companies announce more layoffs and consumers lose access to affordable health care, a local health care economist predicts."

Democracy Now! | Burn Your Health Insurance Bill Day: New Group Advocates Direct Action to Demand Single-Payer System

Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, has just formed a new group called "Single Payer Action" that is advocating direct action to demand a single-payer health insurance system in the United States. Today, he is burning his health insurance bill outside the national meeting of the American Health Insurance Plans in Washington, D.C.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: On the web at Good morning, Amy.

Well, our model, by the way, is “no compromise with the health insurance industry." And here’s the situation in Washington. According to recent polling, 60 percent of Americans support Single Payer/Medicare for All. The majority of the doctors support it. The majority of the nurses support it. The majority of health economists support it.

So why isn’t it happening? It’s not happening because the legislation, single-payer legislation, would put the health insurance industry out of business. So, to be a player in Washington now, you have to kowtow to the powerful health insurance industry, and you have to say the following six words: "Single payer is off the table."

Single Payer Action

Single Payer Action - a new site to promote and action for National Single Payer Health Insurance/Health Care - Everybody In - Nobody Out.

Will be watching.

Should the Government Protect People's Health or Insurance Companies' Profits? | Health and Wellness | AlterNet

The insurance industry already recognizes that it will lose out in this sort of competition. A government-run plan will be more efficient. We already know this based on the experience with Medicare. When private insurers have competed side by side with the traditional government Medicare plan, in the absence of government subsidies, the overwhelming majority of beneficiaries opted to go with the traditional Medicare plan.

This is why the insurers are yelling that they don't want to face 'unfair' competition from a government plan. But, their complaint should be all the endorsement that the public needs to support a public Medicare-type plan. The public plan will be cheaper and better than what the private insurers have to offer. Why shouldn't the public then have this option?

No Reason to Demonize U.S. Single-Payer

John F. Wasik -

It’s time to stop kicking sand in the face of single-payer health care. It may be the strongest solution around to insure every American at a lower cost.

After decades of industry campaigns against this model -- dubbed by its critics as “socialized” medicine -- it’s important to stop whining and evaluate the many economic benefits. Health care is a fundamental human right.


Health-care costs have become a crippling personal-finance burden for 45 million uninsured and 25 million underinsured Americans. Those outside of the fractured employer-based system are only one illness away from financial ruin.

Lose your job and most likely your health coverage will disappear unless you want to pay exorbitant rates. And it’s getting worse. Because of the growing jobless rate, some 14,000 Americans are losing their coverage daily, according to the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

A single-payer plan would cover everybody regardless of employment situation and save money by cutting out middlemen.


-- Since 1999, average premiums for family coverage have climbed 119 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit that tracks health-care issues. Out-of-pocket contributions for workers have more than doubled in that period.

-- Employers are asking more from employees and covering less. More than 93 percent of workers with family coverage need to contribute to the total premium.

-- Without universal health-care, the number of uninsured will rise to 54 million from 45 million today over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

-- Every 30 seconds, someone in the U.S. files for bankruptcy because of their medical bills. An estimated 18,000 Americans die each year from lack of insurance.


In a “Medicare-for-all” program, care would be publicly financed and privately delivered. You would keep your own health- care providers and hospital. The government wouldn’t dictate who your doctor is or choose your hospital. It would be acting more like a huge purchaser bargaining for the best treatment and drugs at the lowest price.


There would be a national market and regulation for health policies and no one could be denied affordable coverage. No more “cherry-picking” of only the healthiest people and rejection of the sickest or those with chronic conditions.


Neighborhoods and communities are imperiled when health-care expenses drive everyone to economic ruin. More than 1.5 million families lose their homes every year to foreclosure due to medical bills.


If Congress doesn’t act soon, the fiscal and social sacrifices in the future will be draconian.

Single-payer haters don’t like the idea of seeing who will provide the highest-quality, low-cost coverage and will do anything to shut down the discussion. But let’s at least put this free-market comparison to the test.

(John F. Wasik, co-author of “iMoney,” is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A New Low in Drug Research: 21 Fabricated Studies Involving Drugs Such As Vioxx, Celebrex - Health Blog - WSJ

We’ve followed plenty of controversies around drug trials, from ghostwriting to keeping quiet about unflattering results. But the latest news is particularly eye-popping: A prominent Massachusetts anesthesiologist allegedly fabricated 21 medical studies involving major drugs. Yikes.

Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., has asked several anesthesiology journals to retract the studies, which appeared between 1996 and 2008, the WSJ reports. The hospital says its former chief of acute pain, Scott S. Reuben, faked data used in the studies.

Some of the studies reported favorable results from use of Pfizer’s Bextra and Merck’s Vioxx, both painkillers that have since been pulled from the market. Others offered good news about Pfizer’s pain drugs Lyrica and Celebrex and Wyeth’s antidepressant Effexor XR. Doctors said Reuben’s work was particularly influential in pain treatment and that they were shocked by the news.


Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, has just formed a new group called Single Payer Action that is advocating direct action to demand a single-payer health insurance system in the United States. Today, he is burning his health insurance bill outside the national meeting of the American Health Insurance Plans in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Broker's Lament: We Brought This On Ourselves - The Health Care Blog


A huge segment of the American population is simply far too strapped to ever afford the premiums and costs associated with health insurance/health care as it is structured today.

It isn't the employees of government (local, county, state or federal) who will demand immediate change. It isn't the employees of institutional companies (the Motorolas, GEs, Microsofts of the country) who will demand change. It isn't those on Medicare or Medicaid or the VA who will demand change. It isn't the wealthy. It isn't the poor. And, it isn't the vast majority of health insurance agents who work with large group clients (because, while that market is becoming ever more difficult and the work more taxing, they're still selling SOMETHING to these bigger businesses and government entities).

Why don't these people see what I'm seeing? Simply because, while they are feeling the effects of the rise in health care/health insurance costs and the downturn in the economy, most of these businesses and their employees and dependents (and the affluent) have yet to have a clue about how expensive things really are (or in the case of the rich, they can still afford their out-of-pocket expenses). The agents who market to large employers are still making lots of money (I know, I rub elbows with them at my local Health Underwriters meetings once a month).

That leaves individuals and small businesses and the agents who work primarily in those markets - the very folks most beleaguered by the current situation. While the employee of a regional electric utility is complaining about monthly payroll deductions for his family that now exceed $500 or more on a $60,000 annual salary, the longtime employee of a local small electrician is looking at monthly payroll deductions for his family of $1,500 on a $35,000 annual salary. His apprentice is younger, and so is "fortunate" to have monthly deductions for his family of only $900 on a $20,000 annual salary. The electrician's helper making $9/hr can't afford even his half of the premium for just himself.

Individuals on personal health insurance policies are also feeling the "pinch." Most of my individual clients see increases of 18-25% a year.

It is all of these folks (and there are tens of millions of them), coupled with those who have already been priced out of the market altogether, who will fuel the fire for radical reform. It is these folks who complain - long, loud and bitterly - that the American dream is leaving them behind. It is these folks to whom the politicians will ultimately listen, because they're the ones making all the noise. It is these folks who will ultimately define what the next set of reforms looks like - and those reforms will NOT be confined only to the small group and individual markets - nor do these folks give a rat's rear end if the insurance industry is involved. (After all, we're doing such a wonderful job for them now.)

And, in my opinion, rightfully so. The health insurance industry (with lots of complicity from legislators, lobbyists and industry groups like ours) has let them down. Period. We have chased profits, chased commissions, swallowed every piece of spin the insurance industry has fed us, and generally ignored the growing number of folks who are beyond dissatisfied with the status quo. They're mad, and they're not going to take it any more.

We're not talking about 5 million, or 15 million people. No, when you add together all small group employees and their dependents, with those who have individual coverage, and the 50 million or so who have no coverage, you're talking about 100 million people or more.

We have brought this upon ourselves, because we (the industry, maybe not each of us individually) have ignored what folks want in favor of what WE want. The industry has ignored calls for more efficient claims and billing, lower bloat, curtailing outrageous CEO and executive salaries, and a more reasonable approach to return on investment. Our industry has ignored any attempt at out-of-the-box thinking to get reasonably priced health insurance to most low-wage Americans, instead focusing on mis-communications to get Americans to buy into what the industry wants ("High Deductible Health Plans are good for you. We don't care if you can't afford the deductible. Now accept that fact and shut up.") Most of all, our industry has simply ignored an ever-louder clamor for us to get our act together. Instead of focusing on a long-term vision for the future of the industry (one that actually includes the very consumers to whom we sell products), the health insurance carriers have instead bellied up to the short-term trough of immediate reward (executive compensation, shareholder value, golden parachutes).

I'm normally not negative, either. I've always considered myself a realist. Yet here I am, watching every prediction I've made over the past 15 years on forums like this come true.

The saddest part is listening to all of the gnashing of teeth and screeching and wailing, mostly from the very folks who have repeatedly turned a deaf ear to the situation year after year because they were making gobs of money. (Yes, I'm talking about a lot of you on this very forum). In fact, some of you are still wearing your rose-colored glasses, and acting like if you just click your red-sequined shoes together, you'll be able to get back home.

Well, you ain't Dorothy, and this ain't Oz.

Let's see what the President and Congress come up with, and try to work with it - because it is inevitable that the reforms will be major, because we've waited too long to save our current system as we know it.

I will not apologize for the above, and I will probably not respond to the rants, flames and cacophony that are sure to ensue. We brought this upon ourselves, so now we'll have to deal with it.

Note by Brian Klepper: John Sinibaldi is a St. Petersburg, FL-based health insurance agent - or as his industry association prefers to be called, "Health Underwriters" - catering primarily to small employer groups. He's posted reality-based columns here in the past, including a particularly pithy one recently on small group coverage in Florida. The fiery comment above was written to colleagues on a national health care brokers' forum.

Canada's hero - The Boston Globe

"Kiefer knows. When asked about the burden of being Donald Sutherland's son, he answers, no, the burden is living up to the legacy of Tommy Douglas, his maternal grandfather. He is a man who changed the world.

Who was Tommy Douglas? He was the social democratic premier of Saskatchewan, an ordained minister partly educated in the social gospel, and partly educated at the University of Chicago, who avoided losing his leg as a young man because a doctor agreed to treat him for free. Douglas pushed through what the Canadians called Medicare - universal, free health insurance - in Saskatchewan, which was later adopted by the national government in 1966.

You think it was easy? Check the clips. The doctors in Saskatchewan went on strike for 23 days, refusing to treat patients. Their arguments were the ones we have been hearing here for decades: Most people already have health insurance, the government has no business regulating the private marketplace, and so on. The doctors lost, and the rest is history. Canada has free medical care. It's not a perfect system - show me one that is - but it must look attractive to the tens of millions of Americans who have no health coverage at all.

Is there a Tommy Douglas for America? President Obama was grooming former Senator Tom Daschle for the role, but that came a cropper. Harvard Business School health policy expert Regina Herzlinger doubts Daschle was up to the job, anyway: "He was defeated for reelection, and he never got any major legislation through." She's doesn't think his two stand-ins at Health and Human Services and inside the White House are world beaters, either: "They are not going to go down in history the way Tommy Douglas did."

"Ted Kennedy might have been able to champion some serious health care reform," Herzlinger adds. "Maybe the Senate will enact all or part of Obama's legislation as a tribute to him."

Is there an appetite for Canadian-style health coverage in the United States? I was told no. "That's a simplistic question," says James Burgess of Boston University's School of Public Health, "but the simple answer is no. In Canada they have a certain number of doctors working off a global budget. Here we have more doctors and more highly paid specialists. To control costs, we're going to have to take away somebody's income, and that will be hard.

"Politically, it's still the case that most people are happy with their coverage in the US," Burgess says. "A small number of people are really harmed by the system, but it's hard to build a populist movement around them."

Even Jon Kingsdale, executive director of our state's modestly socialized Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, thinks it is "very, very, very, very unlikely" that Canadian-style coverage will come to the United States. "It's very popular in Canada, it's cheaper, and it's simple to administer," he says of Canadian Medicare. But "it would be less well received here," Kingsdale thinks. "In other countries, people trust the government to make their lives better, but you don't get that feeling here. The premise is that the government can't be trusted to run the health care system.""

Best Protector of Profits at the Expense of Our Health

by Jason Rosenbaum
Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:51:52 PM CDT

DC often feels left out of politics. We don't have a vote in Congress, and so we can't give our Congressional delegation a call when we want reform.

But today, DC got to make its voice heard.

As noted earlier, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) is having a conference on "health care reform" at the Ritz in DC today and tomorrow. This is a continuation o their sham listening tour, which Health Care for America Now has been calling out around the country for months. It's all part of their blurring strategy to try and convince the country they are for real health care reform this time around, even though the public health insurance option, the heart of President Obama's health care plan, is a dealbreaker for them.

Today, people in DC stood up to them. Video after the jump...Health Care for America Now, and the partners we worked with on this rally such as the National Nurses Organizing Committee, the California Nurses Association, the American Medical Student Association, DC for Obama, DC Fights Back, The Vineeta Foundation,, the Campaign for America's Future, and the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care, aren't standing for it. The insurance industry has already come out against a key piece of President Obama's health care reform. They clearly aren't helping come up with a solution - they are the enemies of reform.

So, in DC today, these groups got together to deliver an award to Karen Igagni, CEO of AHIP.

Here's what we tried to present.

As could be expected, she didn't want to come out, face the crowd, and get her well-deserved certificate. But a couple hundred people had a good time pointing out the insurance industry will always put profits before people.

Here's some quick video of the event:

The biggest highlight was the presence of Congressman Eric Massa's (D-NY). It's heartening that Members of Congress are willing to join a rally to send the message that we can't trust the health insurance industry with health care reform. And apparently we made so much of a splash, that Ignagni and her henchmen had to respond to our concerns during their press conference later that morning:

The protest ended when the group tried to enter the Ritz to deliver an oversized award certificate to KarOuren Ignagni, AHIP's president and CEO. The "Best Protector of Profits at the Expense of Our Health" award didn't make it past security guards or a strategically-parked car near the entrance.

"I believe in First Amendment rights," Ignagni said when asked about the protest during a subsequent press conference. "We're motivated by going through a process of taking issues off the table that are troubling the American people."

We're not giving up. We know the health insurance industry will be the main enemies of health care reform. As President Obama said, the status quo is off the table. It's time to fundamentally reform our system, and that means putting people over insurance industry profits.

This award will follow AHIP and Karen Ignagni around the country until she agrees to accept it and own up to her role in protecting profits even if it costs lives.

We'll see you next time, Karen! We're looking forward to it!

(also posted at the NOW! blog)

Are Boomers Being Targeted in Layoffs to Cut Health Care Costs? | Crooks and Liars

"'They are laying off older workers to reduce their pension exposure and their health-plan exposure,' he said. 'The young people are being hired in without medical plans and pension plans.'"

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The plight of young, uninsured Americans -

Only about one-half of all young adults who are working are offered coverage through an employer, compared to about 75 percent of adults who are offered coverage through an employer, over age 30, said Sara Collins with the nonpartisan health care group, Commonwealth Fund.

And it s a common problem. According to the latest date from the Census Bureau, in 2007, there were an estimated 13.2 million uninsured young adults. It s the fastest growing group of the 46 million uninsured Americans today.

Other uninsured rates, according to the data:

  • Children under 19: 11 percent

  • Ages 30-35: 23 percent

  • Ages 36-49: 17 percent

  • Ages 50-64: 13 percent

Conflict Over Spying Led White House to Brink -

This is the first of two stories adapted from "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency," to be published Tuesday by Penguin Press.

"Cheney and his counsel would struggle for months to quash the legal insurgency. By the time President Bush became aware of it, his No. 2 had stoked dissent into flat-out rebellion. The president would face a dilemma, and the presidency itself a historic test. Cheney would come close to leading them off a cliff, man and office both"

Scientists to issue stark warning over dramatic new sea level figures | Science | The Observer

"Rising sea levels pose a far bigger eco threat than previously thought. This week's climate change conference in Copenhagen will sound an alarm over new floodings - enough to swamp Bangladesh, Florida, the Norfolk Broads and the Thames estuary"


The Washington Monthly:

John Cole posted this graph a few days ago. See that column on the far-right edge? That's where Obama proposes the marginal top-rate should be.

It's also the rate conservatives believe is so outrageous, that they're accusing the president of "socialism" and talking openly about the "Going Galt" scenario in which wealthy and industrious Americans would deliberately make less money to spite their country.

It's all quite silly, but the graph adds some helpful context to drive the point home.

Obama is proposing a top rate lower than Reagan's first term, lower than Nixon's, lower than Eisenhower's, and lower than FDR's when he pulled us out of the Great Depression.

So, really, try not to hyperventilate.

Report of Health Care Community Discussions - PNHP’s official Blog

Posted by Don McCanne, MD on Thursday, Mar 5, 2009

Report of Health Care Community Discussions
March 5, 2009

In December 2008, the Presidential Transition Team invited Americans to host and participate in Health Care Community Discussions to talk about how to reform health care in America.

IV. Solutions to the Problems in the U.S. Health Care System

B. Roles in a Reformed U.S. Health Care System

Role of Government v. Market

The real debate was over the balance of government versus the market in insuring Americans. Supporters of a single-payer system submitted numerous reports, in part due to the encouragement by advocacy groups to participate in Health Care Community Discussions. Under most versions of a single-payer system, the government would replace private insurers in organizing, financing, and paying for health care. Its specifics, and arguments for and against it, are described below (see Single-Payer System box).

That’s it. In this long report, this is the paragraph that expresses the ubiquitous single payer presence at these meetings. (The single payer box mentioned was not posted on this web version of the report.)

Koch Industries: The Real Force behind Right Wing America

Koch is the second largest private company in the United States.

"Although it is both a top campaign contributor and spends millions on direct lobbying, Koch's chief political influence tool is a web of interconnected, right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups funded by foundations controlled and supported by the two Koch brothers.

Among those groups are some of the country's most prominent conservative and libertarian voices including the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Federalist Society. All regularly beat the drum in official Washington for the causes the Koch's hold dear-minimal government, deregulation, and free market economics."

See also:

As Obama Hosts Summit on Healthcare, Marginalized Advocates Ask Why Single Payer Is Ignored

Interview with Harper’s senior editor Luke Mitchell, author of the article "Sick in the Head: Why America Won’t Get the Health-Care System It Needs."

Democracy Now!:

"When I started my Harper’s article, what I wanted to understand is why this approach to healthcare, single payer, which is used in most of the wealthy Western nations, which is much more efficient, which is much more equitable, which is much more amenable to making people healthy, is so far out of the mainstream in the United States. And I think what I found in the article was that—that it’s purely a mental blockage."

Read it all

Talking About Health Reform, But Not About A Cure

Thursday's White House sessions provided a great forum for advocates of 'patching up' and 'tinkering' with a broken system.

But that's not the treatment that is needed. That's a prescription for failure.

Obama is better positioned that any president in decades -- perhaps ever -- to design a system from scratch.

The special interests, corporate insiders and congressional compromisers who made the mess and fear the change won't remind him of that fact – as Thursday's forum so amply illustrated.

Real reformers should keep banging on the doors and demanding a place at the table.

Single payer is not "an alternative."

It is not one of "various treatment options."

It is the cure.

Read it all.

CNN Poll: Do Americans want government health care reform?

"Seventy-two percent of those questioned in recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey say they favor increasing the federal government's influence over the country's health care system in an attempt to lower costs and provide health care coverage to more Americans, with 27 percent opposing such a move. Other recent polls show six in 10 think the government should provide health insurance or take responsibility for providing health care to all Americans."

The Happy Talk Is Great. Don't Expect It to Last. - The Treatment

"At the end of the day, at least some of the people who were in the room on Thursday, saying all of those nice things, are going to decide they have more to lose from health care reform than they have to gain.

Maybe it will be the drug lobby. Maybe it will be the insurers. Maybe it will be small business. Maybe it will be all of them. But whatever the array of reform's adversaries, they will have a good shot at winning--unless they are confronted with a public that not just accepts comprehensive health care reform but insists upon it.

Obama can help that process along, by using his position to educate voters and unleashing the grassroots machine he built during the campaign. But he can't do it alone. He'll need the help of groups like the Service Empoyees International Union, Health Care for America Now,, and other liberal groups that can organize supporters and rally them upon command."

What 4.4 Million Jobs Lost Over 14 Months Looks Like

"651,000 American jobs were lost in the month of February, with the unemployment rate rising to 8.1 percent, the worst since December 1983.

This chart compares the job loss so far in this recession to job losses in the 1990-1991 recession and the 2001 recession – showing how dramatic and unprecedented the job loss over the last 14 months has been. Over the last 14 months, our economy has lost a total of 4.4 million jobs – and continuing job losses in the next few months are predicted.

By comparison, we lost a total of 1.6 million jobs in the 1990-1991 recession, before the economy began turning around and jobs began increasing; and we lost a total of 2.7 million jobs in the 2001 recession, before the economy began turning around and jobs began increasing."

Saturday, March 07, 2009

March 10: 4th National Call-in Day for Single-Payer Healthcare

Fax your Health Insurance Bills to Congress!

When President Obama convened the healthcare reform summit on March 5, he said "Our inability to reform health care in the past is just one example of how special interests have had their way, and the public interest has fallen by the wayside." He added, "And I know people are afraid we'll draw the same old lines in the sand, give in to the same entrenched interests, and arrive back at the same stalemate we've been stuck in for decades."

If your representative is a co-sponsor of HR 676, offer your thanks, and ask them to stand firm.

Find the co-sponsors here.

A Family Illness, and Fewer Friends Who Can Help -

Even the Wall Street Journal admits that the for profit health care system is falling apart:

"That safety net is now unraveling. The slumping economy is pulling down fragile networks of support that in better times could keep families with insurance but big bills from falling into a financial hole."


Health Insurance Company CEO Salaries from 2005 and the total from the previous 5 Years. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to have true Universal Health CARE when CEOs like these are involved.

* United Health Group
CEO: William W McGuire
2005: 124.8 mil
5-year: 342 mil

* Aetna
CEO: John Rowe
2005: 22.1 mil
5-year:57.8 mil

* Cigna
CEO: H. Edward Hanway
2005:13.3 mil
5-year:62.8 mil

* McKesson
CEO: John Hammergen
2005: 13.4 mil
5-year:31.2 mil

* WellPoint
CEO: Larry Glasscock
2005: 23 mil
5-year: 46.8 mil"

More from a blog comment at

The health insurance companies have played a major role in our current healthcare crisis. They make huge profits and their CEOs make millions, while the rest of us are denied care.


• Ronald A. Williams, Chair/ CEO, Aetna Inc., $23,045,834
• H. Edward Hanway, Chair/ CEO, Cigna Corp, $30.16 million
• David B. Snow, Jr, Chair/ CEO, Medco Health, $21.76 million
• Michael B. MCallister, CEO, Humana Inc, $20.06 million
• Stephen J. Hemsley, CEO, UnitedHealth Group, $13,164,529
• Angela F. Braly, President/ CEO, Wellpoint, $9,094,771
• Dale B. Wolf, CEO, Coventry Health Care, $20.86 million
• Jay M. Gellert, President/ CEO, Health Net, $16.65 million
• William C. Van Faasen, Chairman, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, $3 million plus $16.4 million in retirement benefits
• Charlie Baker, President/ CEO, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, $1.5 million
• James Roosevelt, Jr., CEO, Tufts Associated Health Plans, $1.3 million
• Cleve L. Killingsworth, President/CEO Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, $3.6 million
• Raymond McCaskey, CEO, Health Care Service Corp (Blue Cross Blue Shield), $10.3 million
• Daniel P. McCartney, CEO, Healthcare Services Group, Inc, $ 1,061,513
• Daniel Loepp, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $1,657,555
• Todd S. Farha, CEO, WellCare Health Plans, $5,270,825
• Michael F. Neidorff, CEO, Centene Corp, $8,750,751
• Daniel Loepp, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $1,657,555
• Todd S. Farha, CEO, WellCare Health Plans, $5,270,825
• Michael F. Neidorff, CEO, Centene Corp, $8,750,751

This executive compensation could be used to provide quality healthcare for millions of Americans! We need to get the insurance companies and their lobbyists OUT of healthcare. NON-PROFIT, SINGLE-PAYER IS THE ONLY OPTION.

If you want to learn more, go to:

The solution? The United States National Health Insurance Act, H.R. 676. You can read about it here:

Tell Max Baucus he must put single-payer reform on the table:

Heartbreaking - and Heartless! - TheraP's Blog | Talking Points Memo

"Now here's the kicker. The employer, a health care corporation, provides disability insurance. And here's how it works. There's short-term disability and long term disability. Short-term, you get part of your salary and your medical benefits (for 3 months). Next comes long term disability Now what do you think 'long term disability' means? For a health care corporation. It means 15 months! After that, you're terminated. But there's more! Just 3 months into the long term disability, your medical benefits will disappear - unless you pick up the entire cobra amount!

You got that right: A health care corporation cuts off medical benefits for a disabled employee! (unless they can pay for cobra.... maybe from their home equity... if they still had a home... with equity) And ultimately terminates them.

Let's think this through: (A) Stay on your meds. You'll be alive. But you can't work due to side-effects. (B) Go off your meds. And you'll want to die. (C) Stay on meds long enough and you'll lose your health insurance. Then how do you pay for meds? Or your doctor? (D) No meds, you'll want to die again - especially if you contemplate your impossible situation.

This is an impossible situation."

The Reform That, to the White House, Dare Not Speak Its Name

"It's not single payer advocates who are harmed by this wall of exclusion, it's all the American families and patients who yearn for real reform and will almost surely be disillusioned by proposals that fail to achieve it. Because you can't genuinely rein in costs without tackling them at the source -- the insurance companies and their built in incentive to perennially jack up premiums, co-pays, deductibles and all the other ATM-type fees that are bankrupting families and crushing businesses. Nor can you begin to address the callous and routine denial of care for those already insured by the claims adjustors and bean counters who don't want to pay for it. There's another potential casualty here as well, President Obama who himself famously said in 2003 that he was a proponent of single payer and must surely know it is best approach. A lot of political capital will be expended to pass reform this year, it ought to be devoted to a reform that will actually work."

FAIR Study: Media Blackout on Single-Payer Healthcare

Proponents of popular policy shut out of debate


Major newspaper, broadcast and cable stories mentioning healthcare reform in the week leading up to President Barack Obama's March 5 healthcare summit rarely mentioned the idea of a single-payer national health insurance program, according to a new FAIR study. And advocates of such a system--two of whom participated in yesterday's summit--were almost entirely shut out, FAIR found.

Single-payer--a model in which healthcare delivery would remain largely private, but would be paid for by a single federal health insurance fund (much like Medicare provides for seniors, and comparable to Canada's current system)--polls well with the public, who preferred it two-to-one over a privatized system in a recent survey (New York Times/CBS, 1/11-15/09). But a media consumer in the week leading up to the summit was more likely to read about single-payer from the hostile perspective of conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer than see an op-ed by a single-payer advocate in a major U.S. newspaper.

Over the past week, hundreds of stories in major newspapers and on NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and PBS's NewsHour With Jim Lehrer mentioned healthcare reform, according to a search of the Nexis database (2/25/09-3/4/09). Yet all but 18 of these stories made no mention of "single-payer" (or synonyms commonly used by its proponents, such as "Medicare for all," or the proposed single-payer bill, H.R. 676), and only five included the views of advocates of single-payer--none of which appeared on television.

Of a total of 10 newspaper columns FAIR found that mentioned single-payer, Krauthammer's syndicated column critical of the concept, published in the Washington Post (2/27/09) and reprinted in four other daily newspapers, accounted for five instances. Only three columns in the study period advocated for a single-payer system (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/26/09; Boston Globe, 3/1/09; St. Petersburg Times, 3/3/09).

The FAIR study turned up only three mentions of single-payer on the TV outlets surveyed, and two of those references were by TV guests who expressed strong disapproval of it: conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks (NewsHour, 2/27/09) and Republican congressman Darrell Issa (MSNBC's Hardball, 2/26/09).

In many newspapers, the only argument in favor of the policy has been made in letters to the editor (Oregonian, 2/28/09; USA Today, 2/26/09; Washington Post, 3/4/09; Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/27/09; Atlanta Journal Constitution, 2/26/09).

In contrast, the terminology of choice for detractors of any greater public-sector role in healthcare--such as "socialized medicine" and "government-run" healthcare--turned up seven times on TV, including once on ABC News's This Week (3/1/09) and five times on CNN. CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has herself adopted this terminology in discussing healthcare reform, stating (CNN Newsroom, 2/26/09) that "if in time, Americans start to think what President Obama is proposing is some kind of government-run health system--a la Canada, a la England--he will get resistance in the same way that Hillary Clinton got resistance when she tried to do tried to do this in the '90s."

Particularly in the absence of actual coverage of single-payer, such rhetoric confuses rather than informs, blurring the differences between the Canadian model of government-administered national health insurance coupled with private healthcare delivery that single-payer proponents advocate, and healthcare systems such as Britain's, in which healthcare (and not just healthcare insurance) is administered by the government.

The views of CNN's senior medical correspondent notwithstanding, opinion polling (e.g., ABC News/Washington Post, 10/9-19/03) suggests that the public would actually favor single-payer.

Though more than 60 lawmakers have co-sponsored H.R. 676, the single-payer bill in Congress, Obama has not expressed support for single-payer; both the idea and its advocates were marginalized in yesterday's healthcare forum. But given the high level of popular support the policy enjoys, that's all the more reason media should include it in the public debate about the future of healthcare.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

'Underinsured' Americans may raise all health care costs - Mar. 5, 2009

"As the recession puts a bigger strain on consumers' wallets, many underinsured Americans either can't or won't pay the high deductibles and co-pays for treatment they receive in hospitals and emergency rooms.

By one estimate, 25 million Americans can't afford to cover the gap between what their insurance covers and their medical bills demand."

The Health-Care Crisis Hits Home - TIME

It doesn't have to be this way....

"The diagnosis was only the first shock. The second came a few weeks later, in an Aug. 5 letter from Pat's health-insurance company. For six years — since losing the last job he had that provided medical coverage — Pat had been faithfully paying premiums to Assurant Health, buying a series of six-month medical policies, one after the other, always hoping he would soon find a job that would include health coverage. Until that happened, 'unexpected illnesses and accidents happen every day, and the resulting medical bills can be disastrous,' Assurant's website warned. 'Safeguard your financial future with Short Term Medical temporary insurance. It provides the peace of mind and health care access you need at a price you can afford.'"

The White House - Blog Post - Live-blogging the White House Forum on Health Reform

"We asked Rebecca Adelman of the Department of Health and Human Services, which today unveiled, to give us an inside look at the forum as it happens."

Live blogging at Daily Kos here - a bit more informative.

Talking Points Memo | Campaign Against Obama Health Plan Run By Notorious Conservative PR Firm

By Elana Schor - March 3, 2009, 5:55PM

A new group called Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR) is about to launch the opening salvo in the fight to sink President Obama's health care plan.

CPR is running TV, radio, and web ads that attempt to stoke irrational fears of 'a central national board' in charge of medical decision-making, asking Americans to envision a world where 'bureaucrats decide the treatments you receive, the drugs you take, even the doctors you see.' Of course, that vision has nothing to do with the president's health care plan, but the truth shouldn't be an impediment to CPR's dream of killing health care reform.

After all, the group has hired Creative Response Concepts, the same PR firm that represented the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential race. The "media relations" contact number listed on CPR's website, (703) 683-5004, is the same phone number as Creative Response Concepts, as one liberal organization discovered when researching the new health care group.

Creative Response's past clients also include the Christian Coalition, the right-leaning National Taxpayers Union, and USANext, the front group that led George W. Bush's failed push to privatize Social Security. Hilariously, Politico could only bring itself to observe that CPR has hired "veteran Republican consultants" for its new anti-Obama effort.

Another good article about this at Daily Kos

More background reading.

Americans at Risk - One in Three Uninsured

Americans at Risk:

"To find out how many people are affected by being uninsured, Families USA commissioned The Lewin Group to analyze data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) and its Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), as well as from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), which is conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. This analysis found that 86.7 million people—one out of every three Americans under the age of 65—was uninsured for some period of time during 2007 and 2008. These Americans have had to pay for medical care out of their own pockets, or they have had to delay needed care altogether.

Who are these uninsured Americans? No one is protected from the risk of uninsurance. People in all age groups, of every race and ethnicity, and across all income ranges are affected. While most of us have health insurance through our jobs, four out of five uninsured Americans are from working families. Many of these working families are at great risk today as more and more workers get laid off and lose their ability to retain health coverage.

This report offers a closer look at the number of uninsured Americans, who they are, and how long they are uninsured. We also discuss the major underlying reasons for the growth in the number of uninsured."

Next Steps

"There must be a complete, honest, side-by-side comparison of all proposals, including HR-676, by the Congressional Budget Office"

Not just what Senator Baucus pre-determines to allow.

What are they afraid of?

Let there be a honest and open debate, comparing all the true total costs all proposals!

As we know, the many prior analysis, recently by Lewin Group for many state single payer proposals, and older for national bills by both the GAO and CBO, all suggest that only single payer can control total costs and costs to individuals while providing coverage that is both truly universal and comprehensive.

The most recent comparison by Lewin for Commonwealth was very revealing in comparing who pays what: Neither "Building Blocks" standing in for Baucus/Obama nor Wyden-Bennett could control total costs, which skyrocket under both. Wyden disengenuously shoves costs from the Federal side, to States, employers and individuals. Of the plans compared, only Stark's non-single payer verion of "Improved and Expanded Medicare for Most" (which Commonwealth/Lewin says they used to represent all such proposals including ours) actually controlled total national costs and total direct costs to individuals, while also providing universal and comprehensive coverage.

Here is how it looks:

Total Change in National Health Expenditures, in 2010 (in Billions) Under Different Health Reform Proposals:

Total Change in National Expenditures on Health Care


Change in Health Spending by Stakeholder Group, Billions of Dollars, 2010

Who Pays by Stakeholder Under the Different Plans

Single payer wins, when given a honest hearing.

What are they afraid of?
The truth.

Other proposals including Baucus and Wyden cannot stand the full light of day and a thorough honest comparison.

So they have to try to take single Payer off the table without full and honest numbers.

Keep telling them: Let there be a complete and honest debate with real numbers and real side-by-side comparisons.

Suggestions to call:

The White House (202) 456-1414 or (202) 456-1111.

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee:

  • Max Baucus, Chair, (202) 224-2651
  • John D Rockefeller IV (202) 224-6472
  • Kent Conrad (202) 224-2043
  • Jeff Bingaman (202) 224-5521
  • John Kerry (202) 224- 2742
  • Blanche Lincoln (202) 224-4843
  • Ron Wyden (202) 224-5244
  • Charles Schumer (202) 224-6542
  • Debbie Stabenow (202) 224-4822
  • Maria Cantwell (202) 224-3441
  • Bill Nelson (202) 224-5274
  • Robert Menendez (202) 224-4744
  • Thomas Carper (202) 224-2441
  • Edward Kennedy (202) 224-4543
  • Harry Reid (202) 224-3542

[Thanks to DrSteveB of PNHP for this and all of his fine work on this important issue.]

Action Alert: Call The White House: Let Single Payer In

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who made calls or sent faxes.
As of now we know that among the 120 people invited to the White House Health Summit there are two single payer advocates:

  • Representative John Conyers the lead sponsor for HR-676 and
  • Dr. Oli Fein the president of PNHP.
So far as we know, CNA/NNOC are still being shut-out, on the basis that they are already represented by the AFL-CIO, according to a Congressional Quarterly report from this afternoon. No word about HealthCare-Now or Progressive Democrats of America or Public Citizen, or the dozens of other groups that are part of the leadership coalition for single payer.

In addition to the phone calls and emails by lots of us, PNHP had been planning a rally, wearing our doctors' White Coats at the White House, to call attention to being left out. Maybe all this helped. Or maybe it was theater all along: they say no, we complain, they let in a token representation, but no change in policy is made. We shall see!?!

On Thursday, March 5, 2009, the White House will host a summit on how to reform the healthcare system.

The 120 invited guests include lobbyists for various interest groups including the private-for-profit insurance industry (AHIP), some members of Congress including Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus who has already ruled single payer “off the table,” and various others concerned with healthcare.

No single payer advocates have been invited to attend.

Please urge President Obama to fulfill his promise for transparency and openness in government

Call The White House (202) 456-1414 or (202) 456-1111.

Tell them to let single payer into the White House Summit on healthcare.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

National Health Care Act worthy of public support | Physicians for a National Health Program

Helena Independent Record

Sick of health insurance costs? Then pay attention. Some in Congress want to perpetuate the power of insurance corporations over our health care and what we pay to get it. There is an alternative. The U.S. National Health Care Act: Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, HR 676 could be implemented within 13 months (like Medicare was) and unlike the Wall Street bailout, would be funded by eliminating waste while providing a real hand up for every American family and business — except the insurance industry.

HR 676 would save billions annually by eliminating the high overhead costs and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs. According to the Government Accountability Office, the Economic Policy Institute, and others a single-payer system saves enough to offset the costs of providing the health care, about $1.1 trillion. That is how other countries are under-spending, yet out-performing us in health care.

HR 676 would expand an improved Medicare as the publicly accountable “insurance” payer for all of us. Doctors would remain in private practice providing our care. Patients would be free to seek care with the doctor or hospital of their choice.

HR 676 would cover every person in the U. S. for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, chiropractic and long term care.

In the 110th Congress, HR 676 had 93 co-sponsors in addition to its sponsor Rep. Conyers.

HR 676 has been endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Physicians for a National Health Program, 480 union organizations in 49 states including 118 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 39 AFL-CIO’s (including Montana).

HR 676, as part of its funding, calls for a modest increase in payroll taxes to replace insurance premiums, and economists estimate that both businesses and individuals would pay less than they do now.

Is there support for such reforms? Oh yes! In 2008, the National Federation of Independent Business survey found a majority of businesses polled preferred a payroll tax to fund employee health care rather than our current insurance system. Large independent polls also find a majority (64-65 percent) of Americans support a federally funded single payer approach to health care (AP/Yahoo, CBS News/New York Times, Harvard School of Public Health, and CNN, 2007-2008). People are ready for reform — now for the politicians!

Senator Baucus needs to hear that we don’t need or want a health care plan like the expensive and complicated Medicare drug plan. Ask Senator Baucus to put the greatest public good ahead of corporate profits — ask him to set aside his white paper and sponsor HR 676 in the Senate. Call him at: (800) 828-0498 or (800) 332-6106 [...]

Beth Sirr is a family nurse practitioner in Helena.

How To Use Digg and Reddit to Piss Off Rush Limbaugh Listeners

Pretty funny: "How To Use Digg and Reddit to Piss Off Rush Limbaugh Listeners"

Obama releases secret Bush anti-terror memos

How can this not be good for our country? Air out the dirty laundry and start moving forward with the world to solve global problems that impact our lives at home. From the economy to diminishing terrorism - acting in the dark puts us in greater danger.

AP: Obama releases secret Bush anti-terror memos:

"The Obama administration threw open the curtain on years of Bush-era secrets Monday, revealing anti-terror memos that claimed exceptional search-and-seizure powers and divulging that the CIA destroyed nearly 100 videotapes of interrogations and other treatment of terror suspects."

The files are all in PDF form. The titles of the memos are:

Memorandum Regarding Status of Certain OLC Opinions Issued in the Aftermath of the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 (01-15-2009)

Memorandum Regarding Constitutionality of Amending Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to Change the "Purpose" Standard for Searches (09-25-2001)

Memorandum Regarding Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities within the United States (10-23-2001)

Memorandum Regarding Authority of the President to Suspend Certain Provisions of the ABM Treaty (11-15-2001)

Memorandum Regarding the President's Power as Commander in Chief to Transfer Captured Terrorists to the Control and Custody of Foreign Nations (03-13-2002)

Memorandum Regarding Swift Justice Authorization Act (04-08-2002)

Memorandum Regarding Determination of Enemy Belligerency and Military Detention (06-08-2002)

Memorandum Regarding Applicability of 18 U.S.C. § 4001(a) to Military Detention of United States Citizens (06-27-2002)

Memorandum Regarding October 23, 2001 OLC Opinion Addressing the Domestic Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities (10-06-2008)

Johnny Rook’s Climaticide Chronicles

A climate blog not to be missed.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Socialist Propaganda to Benefit Librarians and the Libraries that Recruit Them | Healthy and Green Living

"As is evidenced by all the chin wagging and name calling that erupted at the tail end of the 2008 election season, people are still sufficiently alarmed by the specter of socialism. Pundits and everyday Joes sounded all sorts of Cassandra cries that we were walking backwards into a socialist state. But I assure you, if you want to find triumphant socialism at work in nearly every community in this great nation, you would be well advised to visit your local library."

How long shall we allow this gooey socialist crap to go on? Public libraries threaten the very fabric of our free market capitalist system and MUST be stopped.