Monday, August 31, 2009

House Dems plot health care comeback

The comeback for Democrats — if there is one — will begin in an all-important closed-door caucus meeting next week in the basement of the Capitol, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her top lieutenants will try to undo the damage of the August recess and convince their wobbly members that a vote for health care reform will not cost them their jobs in 2010.

Leaders say their strategy is to convince members that nothing is set in stone and that they are more than open to negotiations. And they’re engaging in a softer sell, prioritizing health insurance reforms while pitching the public option as something that’s way, way down the road.

Read it all at

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Editorial - Majority Rule on Health Care Reform

With the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, the Democrats do not have the votes just among their 57 members (and the two independents) to break a filibuster, and not all of these can be counted on to vote in lock step. If the Democrats want to enact health care reform this year, they appear to have little choice but to adopt a high-risk, go-it-alone, majority-rules strategy.

So how much of the proposed health care reforms could plausibly fit into a reconciliation bill? The answer seems to be: quite a lot, though nobody knows for sure.

Knowledgeable analysts from both parties believe that these important elements of reform will probably pass muster because of their budgetary impact: expansion of Medicaid for the poor; subsidies to help low-income people buy insurance; new taxes to pay for the trillion-dollar program; Medicare cuts to help finance the program; mandates on individuals to buy insurance and on employers to offer coverage; and tax credits to help small businesses provide insurance.

Even the public plan so reviled by Republicans could probably qualify, especially if it is given greater power than currently planned to dictate the prices it will pay to hospitals, doctors, drug companies and other providers, thus saving the government lots of money in subsidies.

Greater uncertainty surrounds two other critical elements: new rules requiring insurance companies to accept all applicants and charge them the same premiums without regard to medical condition, and the creation of new exchanges in which people forced to buy their own insurance could find cheaper policies than are currently available.

Republicans claim that they want to make medical insurance and care cheaper and give ordinary Americans more choices. But given their drive to kill health reform at any cost, they might well argue that these are programmatic changes whose budgetary impact is “merely incidental.” Democrats would very likely counter that they are so intertwined with other reforms that they are “a necessary term or condition” for other provisions that do affect spending or revenues, which could allow them to be kept in the bill.

Another hurdle is that the reconciliation legislation covers only the next five years, while the Democratic plans are devised to be deficit-neutral over 10 years. The practical effect is that the Democrats will almost surely need to find added revenues or budget cuts within the first five years.

Another Senate rule, which applies whether reconciliation is used or not, requires that the reforms enacted now not cause an increase in the deficit for decades to come, a difficult but probably not impossible hurdle to surmount.

Clearly the reconciliation approach is a risky and less desirable way to enact comprehensive health care reforms. The only worse approach would be to retreat to modest gestures in an effort to win Republican acquiescence. It is barely possible that the Senate Finance Committee might pull off a miracle and devise a comprehensive solution that could win broad support, or get one or more Republicans to vote to break a filibuster. If not, the Democrats need to push for as much reform as possible through majority vote.

Read it all at

Does the government actually run the BEST healthcare?

The main thrust of the anti-reform argument is that government is bad at running things, and would be terrible at running a healthcare program. Better to entrust running healthcare to the very same private insurers who have gotten rich creating the very problem we have now: skyrocketing premium costs, coverage reductions or limitations, denials due to pre-existing conditions, etc.

But is there really a good argument to be made against government run healthcare plans in general? Certainly, the healthcare enjoyed by members of congress is government-run, as is that offered to our armed servicemen and women. How do they measure up to privately run medical programs?

A team of researchers recently set out to compare the quality of VHA care with that of care in a national sample by using a comprehensive quality-of-care measure.

From the study, the research team concludes that patients receiving socialized, government-run medicine from the VHA received higher-quality care according to a broad measure. Differences were greatest in areas where the VHA has established performance measures and actively monitors performance.

What this study really says is that the more accurately we measure, the more we begin to see that socialized, government-run medical programs like the VA provide extremely high quality medical care

Read it all here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

3000 New Yorkers Rally for Health Care in Times Square

Teabaggers can't beat this. Bill Moyers had a crew doing interviews with the crowd as well.

More photos here.

Local News Video - note that they got the number of participants a bit off...

Until Medical Bills Do Us Part

The hospital arranged a conference call with a social worker, who outlined how the dementia and its financial toll on the family would progress, and then added, out of the blue: “Maybe you should divorce.”

“I was blown away,” M. told me. But, she said, the hospital staff members explained that they had seen it all before, many times. If M.’s husband required long-term care, the costs would be catastrophic even for a middle-class family with savings.

Eventually, after the expenses whittled away their combined assets, her husband could go on Medicaid — but by then their children’s nest egg would be gone, along with her 401(k) plan. She would face a bleak retirement with neither her husband nor her savings.

A complicating factor was that this was a second marriage. M.’s first husband had died, leaving an inheritance that he had intended for their children. She and her second husband had a prenuptial agreement, but that would not protect her assets from his medical expenses.

The hospital told M. not to waste time in dissolving the marriage. For five years after any divorce, her assets could be seized — precisely because the government knows that people sometimes divorce husbands or wives to escape their medical bills.

Read it all at

Real Time: Bill Moyers on Health Care as a Human Right

Source: Video Cafe

WellPoint Calls Attention To Its Own Immoral Practices In Effort To Smear Health Reform

For-profit health insurance giant WellPoint fired off an email blast to its customers (using its Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield subsidiary) yesterday attacking the public option and Democratic plans for reforming health care, according to Politico’s Ben Smith. The email directs customers to its “grassroots Web site” for instructions on contacting legislators, a website ThinkProgress revealed to be run by the secretive corporate lobbying firm Democracy Data and Communications (DDC). DDC, which is operated by a former veteran of the astroturf organization now known as FreedomWorks, has helped various corporate and Republican interests shape legislation by helping to generate seemingly organic phone calls and letters to Congress.

Read it all at Think Progress

Dying Kennedy spoke of reuniting with JFK, RFK; Saw Obama carrying on family’s legacy

U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy went to his deathbed looking forward to a reunion with his assassinated brothers - certain he could proudly tell them he had continued their legacy through the president who will deliver his eulogy today, U.S. Rep. William Delahunt told the Herald yesterday.

Read it all at the Boston Herald

Bill Moyers on the health care debate, Democrats, and Afghanistan

If you have HBO and can watch this, I really recommend - Fantastic interview. Otherwise hurry and watch at the links below before HBO demands they are taken down.

From Glenn Greenwald:

Bill Moyers was on Bill Maher's show last night and spoke about the core failures of Democratic Party in the context of both the health care debate and the ongoing escalation in Afghanistan.  The whole discussion is really worth watching (at least until HBO intervenes, the entire 30-minute interview can be seen in 3 parts:  here, here and here; HBO is re-running the show throughout the weekend on this schedule...)

On what's really happening in the health care fight:

MOYERS: I don’t think the problem is the Republicans . . . .The problem is the Democratic Party. This is a party that has told its progressives -- who are the most outspoken champions of health care reform -- to sit down and shut up. That’s what Rahm Emanuel, the Chief of Staff at the White House, in effect told progressives who stood up as a unit in Congress and said: "no public insurance option, no health care reform."

And I think the reason for that is -- in the time since I was there, 40 years ago, the Democratic Part has become like the Republican Party, deeply influenced by corporate money. I think Rahm Emanuel, who is a clever politician, understands that the money for Obama’s re-election will come from the health care industry, from the drug industry, from Wall Street. And so he’s a corporate Democrat who is determined that there won’t be something in this legislation that will turn off these interests. . . .

Money in politics -- you’ve had in the last 30 years, money has flooded politics . .. the Supreme Court saying "money is free speech." It goes back to the efforts in the 19th Century to give corporations the right of personhood -- so if you as a citizen have the right to donate to campaigns, then so do corporations. Money has flowed in such a flood into both parties that the Democratic Party gets a lot of its support from the very interests that -- when the Republicans are in power -- financially support the Republicans.

You really have essentially -- except for the progressives on the left of the Democratic Party – you really have two corporate parties who in their own way and their own time are serving the interests of basically a narrow set of economic interests in the country -- who, as Glenn Greenwald, who is a great analyst and journalist, wrote just this week: these narrow interests seem to win, determine the outcomes, no matter how many Democrats are elected, no matter who has their hands on the levers of powers, these narrow interests determine the outcomes in Washington, even when they have to run roughshod over the interests of ordinary Americans. I’m sad to say that has happened to the Democratic Party.

I’d rather see Barack Obama go down fighting for vigorous strong principled public insurance, than to lose with a [corporate-dominated] bill . . . . the insurers are winning. Everyone already knows the White House has made a deal with the drug industry -- promising not to import cheaper drugs from Canada and Europe – promising not to use the government to negotiate for better prices -- that deal has been cut . . .

There’s this fear that Barack Obama will become the Grover Cleveland of this era – Grover Cleveland was a good man, but he became a conservative Democratic President because he didn’t fight the powerful interests – people say Obama should be FDR – I’d much rather see him be Theodore Roosevelt --– Teddy Roosevelt loved to fight – … I think if Obama fought instead of really finessed it so much . . . I think it would change the atmosphere.

Read it all at

Sen. Bob Bennett: ‘The No. 1 assignment in 2009 is to kill Obamacare.’

In Salt Lake City today, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) held a fundraiser with former Bush adviser Karl Rove, where Rove declared that “Republicans will be defined this year by their effort to block Democrats’ efforts for health care reform.” “This year is going to be defined by Republicans and conservatives by what we oppose,” said Rove. After Rove praised Bennett’s health care plan, Bennett said that he agreed with Rove’s goal of killing health care reform:

Rove said that he supports Bennett’s work on the Healthy Americans Act - the health care bill Bennett is co-sponsoring with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon - although he said it’s “not exactly the bill that you or I would like each and every section.”

Bennett said his bill is not a negotiating tool on health care, but it will be there as an alternative after Democratic reforms are blocked. “The No. 1 assignment in 2009 is to kill Obamacare,” Bennett said.

Another Republican member of Congress, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), also expressed a desire to “kill” health reform today. Asked on’s Top Line today if "Sen. Kennedy’s passing" would "change anything about the political equation" for health reform, Barrasso replied that “What I’m hearing all across the country is 'kill the bill.'"

From Think Progress

PNHP Physicians prescribe single-payer health care

McCaine's town hall meeting fostered disinformation and fear until one advocate from the audience explained how HR 676 "Medicare For All" worked. Unbelievable, McCain confessed he's never heard of the Bill but said he would not support it, anyway.

Bill Moyers: Money-Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much

The world of medicine has changed radically since I was a kid in East Texas. Back then, Dr. Sam Tenney made house calls for a couple of bucks a visit. Dr. Granbury raced to a patient's side with such speed you could hear his tires screeching around the courthouse square blocks away. And if you needed a prescription, Dr. Wyatt would offer to drop it off at your door on his way to the hospital - a non-profit community hospital, by the way, run by civic-minded citizens who counted every penny.

If any of them were around today, they would surely marvel at our high-tech medicine. But as prudent folks, they would also marvel - in a horrified way, I think - at the cost of it all. How did we get here?

Maggie Mahar wanted to find out. She's one of our best financial journalists - now, after years of research, she has written: MONEY-DRIVEN MEDICINE: THE REAL REASON HEALTH CARE COSTS SO MUCH. During their summer recess, if every member of the House and Senate would read it before returning to Washington, the outcome of the health care debate might be very different.

In this broadcast we will share with you a film based on Maggie Mahar's work. The book and the film couldn't be more timely as our country wrestles with what to do about money-driven medicine.

Watch the video at PBS

Save the Public Option

The single best thing you can do is to (politely) communicate with your elected representatives about healthcare. Tell them your personal stories. Make them understand why you support reform and why you think the stakes are so high. They need to hear from their constituents, and the people who make the effort to talk to them in person will be heard most loudly.

Read it all at The Nation

Entrepreneurs complain of prohibitive health care costs

A recent study on the small business sectors in different countries has knocked down the notion that the U.S. economic policy welcomes and fosters entrepreneurs. Rather, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which conducted the study, found that the United States has one the smallest small business sectors—as a portion of total national employment—in the world.

The study looked at 22 wealthy industrialized nations and found that the United States had the second lowest share of self-employed workers, ahead of only Luxembourg. The United States also ranked close to the bottom in terms of the portion of the work force employed in small business manufacturing: the U.S. share of 11.1% compares with 14.4% in Sweden and 18.1% in the United Kingdom

In other words, despite a long tradition of celebrating self-starters and business owners who create jobs and collectively serve as a powerful economic engine, the United States has a comparatively weak and small business sector.

While the study’s authors theorize that high health costs are to blame for the lack of a more robust small business sector, what’s even more striking is how many would-be entrepreneurs agreed. A New York Times blog earlier this month about the study generated a flurry of responses, which were overwhelmingly in agreement that unfriendly health care policies were choking the small business sector.

Read it all at the Economic Policy Institute

Friday, August 28, 2009

Health Insurance Lobby’s Stealth Astroturf Campaign Revealed! | Health and Wellness | AlterNet

by Lee Fang

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that AHIP — the multimillion dollar lobbying juggernaut for the health insurance industry — has mobilized 50,000 employees to lobby Congress to defeat the public option. ThinkProgress has learned that AHIP’s grassroots lobbying is being managed by the corporate consulting firm Democracy Data & Communications. DDC has made a name for itself as one of the most effective stealth lobbying firms. Earlier this summer, DDC was caught by reporters using a front group called “Citizens for a Safe Alexandria” to attack the Obama administration for seeking to prosecute Guantanamo Bay prisoners in Alexandria, VA.

According to the server-information hub, the AHIP grassroots outreach website is hosted on a server owned by DDC. Though DDC conceals the hosting of its other websites using a service called DomainsByProxy, ThinkProgress has obtained a list of the domains hosted on DDC servers. A review of this data shows that DDC maintains the grassroots outreach websites for large health insurance companies, but also for big tobacco and Koch Industries:

– (Altria)

– (Altria)

– (Koch Industries)

– (Aetna)

– (WellPoint)

– (Humana)

– (AHIP)

DDC is a firm that promises “high impact” outreach programs to not only influence the grassroots, but “change attitudes for the long term.”

As the Washington Post explains, DDC pays over 500 contract workers to “spend much of their day telephoning people around the country and asking them to sign letters to Congress that press for legislation.” The firm helped orchestrate “grassroots” support for President Bush’s push to privatize Social Security, and helped manage online efforts for the right-wing attack group Freedom’s Watch. DDC is headed by B.R. McConnon, a former associate of Jack Abramoff’s lobbying partners, and a former employee of the Koch-funded astroturf organization known as Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Citizens for a Sound Economy — which has also received funds from private health insurers in the past and played a critical astroturf role in killing reform under Clinton — eventually split, with one wing forming Americans for Prosperity in 2003, and another forming FreedomWorks in 2004. Both organizations, which are still funded by the Koch Industries empire, were instrumental in organizing the anti-Obama tea party protests, and have been spreading misinformation and anger at the current health reform effort. Americans for Prosperity’s anti-health reform front group, Patients United, has hosted speakers comparing the House health reform bill to the Holocaust.

Curiously, DDC servers also host anti-health reform letters from the Chamber of Commerce and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), as well as continual news updates about the reform debate. All three documents are under a subsection titled WellPoint.

Given the stealthy nature of astroturf lobbying firms, it is difficult to discern the extent to which DDC is managing AHIP’s efforts. UnitedHealth, another large insurer, was caught recently using a call center to direct people to a radical tea party anti-health reform protest outside of the offices of Rep. Zach Space (D-OH).

Already, the health insurance industry has flexed its muscle to water down reform. After spending millions on lobbying, advertising, and direct contributions to lawmakers, the Senate Finance Committee made a major concession allowing insurers to reimburse only 65% of medical bills (down from the 76% proposed requirement). And indeed, although AHIP has made grandiose promises of self regulation, many insurers have recently broke promises made by AHIP President Karen Ignagni. On June 16, despite Ignagni’s pledges of commitment, insurance executives from UnitedHealth Group, Assurant, and WellPoint specifically refused to “commit” to ending the controversial practice of rescinding coverage after an applicant files a medical claim.

With DDC’s stealth lobbying assistance, AHIP may well kill the public option too.

Source: AlterNet

Beware Authoritative "Inside Washington" Sources Who Say The Public Option is Dead

From Robert Reich

Washington, D.C. is an echo chamber in which anyone who sounds authoritative repeats the conventional authoritative wisdom about the "consensus" of inside opinion, which they've heard from someone else who sounds equally authoritative, who of course has heard it from another authoritative source. Follow the trail to its start and you often find an obscure congressional or White House staffer who has seen some half-assed poll number or briefing memo, but seeking to feel important hypes it a media personality or lobbyist who, desperate to sound authoritative, pronounces it as truth. In any other place on the planet it would be called rumor, gossip, or drivel. In our nation's capital it's called "inside information." The process would be harmless except that it creates self-fulfilling prophesies. Since most of our elected representatives would rather not stick their necks out lest they lose their heads, they tend to rush toward whatever consensus seems to be emerging -- which, of course, is based on authoritative reports about the emerging consensus.

In the last few days authoritative sources have repeatedly told me that the public option is dead, that the President won't be able to get a comprehensive health care bill, and that the White House and congressional leadership already know the best they'll be able to do now is move incrementally -- starting with insurance reforms such as barring insurers from using someone's preexisting health conditions to deny coverage -- with the hope of more reforms in the years ahead. The rightwing media fearmongers and demagogues have won. Don't believe it. The other thing about Washington is how quickly conventional authoritative wisdom changes, especially when the public is still in flux over some large matter. Rightwing fearmongers and demagogues thrive only to the extent the mainstream media believes they're thriving. Although polls continue to show that while most Americans like the health care they're getting, they also dislike their insurance companies, worry that they or their families will be denied coverage, and are anxious about the increasing co-payments, deductibles, and premiums they're facing. Most are still eager for reform.

In addition, we've come to the point where health-care incrementalism won't work. To be sure, the health-insurance industry is powerful and will fight reforms that threaten their profits. But they won't fight if they know their profits will be restored when everyone is required to have health insurance. (This isn't just conventional authoritative wisdom; it's political fact.) Obviously, in order to require everyone to have health insurance, tens of millions of Americans will need help affording it. The only way the government can possibly pay that tab is to raise taxes on the rich while also getting long-term health-insurance costs under control. And one of the surest ways to get long-term costs under control is to force private insurers -- which in most states and under most employer-provided plans face very little competition -- to compete with a public insurance option that can use its bargaining clout with drug companies and medical providers to negotiate lower prices.

When you go through the logic, it starts to look a lot like comprehensive reform.

Years ago, as the story goes, Britain's Parliament faced a difficult choice. On the European continent drivers use the right lanes, while the English remained on the left. But tunnels and fast ferries were bringing cars and drivers back and forth ever more frequently. Liberals in Parliament thought it time to change lanes. Conservatives resisted; after all, Brits had been driving on the left since William the Conquerer's charriot. Parliament's compromise was to move from the left to right lanes -- but incrementally, on a voluntary basis. Truckers first.

Lest anyone in Washington repeat this story authoritatively, it's a joke -- but with a kernel of truth. Sometimes reform has to occur in a big way, everything or nothing, if it's to happen at all. That's the way it is with health care reform at this stage. Every moving piece is related to every other one. That's also why a public option is necessary.

So forget the authoritative sources. Mobilize and organize. We can get comprehensive, meaningful health care reform if we push hard enough. And we must.

Sen Chris Dodd Speaks At Senator Kennedy's Memorial

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy on Health Care

This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, "that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American...will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege." For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it's always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.

— Ted Kennedy

Thank you, Senator Kennedy.

Employers Face 10.5 Percent Health Care Cost Increases

If corporate income taxes were raised 10.5%, all hell would break loose.

Aon Consulting surveyed more than 60 leading health care insurers, representing more than 100 million insured individuals, and found that health care costs are projected to increase by 10.4 percent for HMOs, 10.4 percent for POS plans, 10.7 percent for PPOs and 10.5 percent for CDH plans.

In addition, health care rate increases for retirees over the age of 65 are projected to be 6.6 percent for Medicare Supplement plans and 7.3 percent for Medicare Advantage plans.

The Medicare Advantage plans are overpaid deliberately to give the plans an unfair competitive advantage over the traditional Medicare program, with the intent of privatizing Medicare. Most of the extra payment is wasted in administration and profits, and what little benefit there is should be given to all Medicare beneficiaries, not just those enrolled in these plans.

The Medigap plans provide the worst value in the private insurance market. The insurers pay a much lower percentage of the premiums they collect for actual health care than they do in any of their other insurance product lines. Americans would be receiving a much greater value if the benefits of the Medigap plans were rolled into the traditional Medicare program, and these wasteful private supplemental plans were totally eliminated.

This Aon report should lead to two obvious conclusions: 1) get the private health plans out of our Medicare program, and 2) replace the private employer-sponsored plans with an improved Medicare program for all of us.

If you agree, let President Obama and the members of Congress hear your message loud and clear. Immediately.

Read it all at PNHP

Thomas Frank: Health Care and the Democratic Soul

It's time for Obama to channel Harry Truman.

What is at stake in the debate over health care is more than the mere crafting of policy. The issue is now the identity of the Democratic Party.

By now we know that Democrats can bail out traditional Republican constituencies like Wall Street, but it remains to be seen whether they can enact a convincing version of their own signature issue, health-care reform.

At this point, it's fair to ask whether Democrats remember why health care is their issue in the first place. As health-care debates always have done, this one has pushed to the fore all the big questions about the rightful role of government, and too many Democrats have sought to avoid them with mushy appeals to consensus and bipartisanship. The war is on and if Democrats want to win they need to start fighting.

In the early years of the campaign for national health insurance, the battle lines were more clearly drawn. Back in the '40s, the issue was part of an "economic bill of rights," a grand Rooseveltian idea pushed by President Harry S. Truman.

Truman had a knack for populist phrasing. "In 1932 we were attacking the citadel of special privilege and greed," he declared in accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in 1948. "We were fighting to drive the money changers from the temple. Today, in 1948, we are now the defenders of the stronghold of democracy and of equal opportunity, the haven of the ordinary people of this land and not of the favored classes or the powerful few."

The Democrats won that particular battle with "the powerful few" but, fighting among themselves as usual, failed to enact national health insurance. Health-care reform nonetheless remained their great cause, their high-voltage appeal to average voters, even those who otherwise saw them as a Harvard-and-Hollywood elite. And even during feeble reform campaigns like President Bill Clinton's 1993 attempt, the opposite half of the populist melodrama—in that case, the insurance industry—duly acted out its corporate bad-guy role.

This year things were supposed to be different. Democrats hold good-sized majorities in both houses of Congress and are led by an eloquent president who won an undeniable mandate last November. This time, the Democrats got the traditional opponents of health-care reform on board: "Ex-Foes of Health-Care Reform Emerge as Supporters" declared a headline in the Washington Post in March, over a story describing a friendly summit meeting between Mr. Obama and various health-care industry representatives.

This time the health-care fight was to be what official Washington loves: An act of cold consensus, not of hot idealism or Trumanesque populism. All the "stakeholders" would be taken care of. No one would need to get his suit ruffled.

And all it took to send the whole thing crashing to the ground, it now appears, were a few groundless rumors and a handful of angry right wingers who figured out how to game town-hall meetings and get themselves on TV. "Today there is another populist revolt afoot," wrote Gary Bauer in Human Events last week, hailing the righteous grassroots outrage he sees in the town-hall protests.

So we have come full circle: The reformers shake hands with the special interests, while conservatives denounce the whole thing in the name of the common man and the Founding Fathers.

After I listened to a few angry town-hall meetings on the radio, the situation was clear to me. Democrats had to meet this pseudo-populist challenge by rolling out the real thing, the New Deal vision that is their party's raison d'être.

So far, however, many in the party's leadership haven't been able to awaken from their bipartisan reverie. When Mr. Obama found his plans under attack, for example, he promptly began to downplay the "public option," an obvious predicate to cutting a deal and placating the insurance industry. In other words, the prospect of a populist outburst from the right apparently moved him toward abandoning the most populist element of his party's plans and toward an even more Beltwayist position—to move that much closer to the caricature of Democrats traditionally drawn by the right.

Mr. Obama still has time to reverse course. A great deal depends on it. To fail on health care yet again might well be the "Waterloo" Republicans dream of. And yet, as the party's leaders click through their PowerPoint presentations and review the complicated details, they seem unable to confront the biggest questions that the right is asking, the ones about the eternal perfidy of government.

Maybe Democrats are afraid it will hurt their standing with those generous fellows on K Street if they channel Harry Truman and say what needs to be said: That government can be made to work for average people. But it will hurt even worse if they refuse to say it.


Waxman Gears Up for Health Care Showdown

By the time Congress returns from its recess and takes another whack at the health insurance mess, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., will have started revealing the deceit that protects health business profiteers.

Waxman has already begun by demanding that major insurance companies reveal how much they pay top executives and board members and, most important, the size of their profits from selling policies.

He is getting to the heart of the health insurance debate. It’s all about the health business—insurance, hospitals, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, medical equipment makers and others.

Read it all at Truthdig

Kucinich Calls on Insurers to Testify Before Panel

The insurance industry is facing new heat from House Democrats as Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on Domestic Policy, on Wednesday requested that six top insurance company executives appear before his panel to explain how they do business.

Kucinich in his letter said the Sept. 17 hearing will examine “the nature, cost/benefit, and impact of administrative measures and protocols used by the health insurance industry to determine coverage for doctor-prescribed health care treatments, as well as costs of administrative measures undertaken by doctors to interface with insurance companies.”

The missive went to CEOs of Aetna, WellPoint, Cigna, Humana, Hemingway Health Care and UnitedHealth. It follows a request earlier this month that Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of that panel’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent to 52 insurance companies requesting reams of potentially embarrassing financial information. Waxman and Stupak are seeking details of executive compensation packages, conferences and retreats they sponsored, and the profitability of their products.

Read it all at Roll Call

AFGE and IUPAT Locals in Oregon Endorse HR-676

From Unions for Single Payer Health Care:

Portland, Oregon- American Federation of Government Employees Local 2157 and Painters Local 10 have endorsed HR 676, single payer healthcare legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).

AFGE Local 2157 represents 600 employees at the Portland VA Medical Center and outlying clinics in Oregon as well as at the Veterans’ Benefits Administration offices and Willamette National Cemetery. The local endorsed HR 676 following a presentation by member Betsy Zucker and Jobs with Justice activist Peter Shapiro. Local 2157 President Leonard Fearn said: “We are proud to join the growing number of unions who support single payer healthcare. Private insurance adds cost, but no value, to our health care dollars. Single Payer Now.”

AFGE Local 2157 has submitted its resolution to the AFGE International Union Convention which meets this month.

Local 10 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) also endorsed HR 676. Travis Giobbi, a Local 10 apprentice, submitted the resolution and reports that the local forwarded its resolution to their International Union Convention which meets in September.

Universal Health Care Message to Americans From Canadian Doctors & Health Care Experts

Canadian Doctors for Medicare hosted a celebration of Medicare in Canada. The speakers included Roy Romanow, former Saskatchewan Premiere and Commissioner on Health Care in Canada. They tell Americans that Canadian universal health care works and encourage Americans to implement a single payer universal health care systems.

World’s Best Health Care

The American health care system puts patients at greater risk of harm from medical or surgical errors than patients elsewhere and ranks behind the top countries in extending the lives of the elderly. It has a mixed record on preventive care — above average in vaccinating seniors against the flu, below average in vaccinating children — and a mixed record of caring for chronic and acute conditions.

Contrary to what one hears in political discourse, the bulk of the research comparing the United States and Canada found a higher quality of care in our northern neighbor. Canadians, for example, have longer survival times while undergoing renal dialysis and after a kidney transplant. Of 10 studies comparing the care given to a broad range of patients suffering from a diverse group of ailments, five favored Canada, three yielded mixed results, and only two favored the United States.

Read it all at

Mike Enzi, Gang Of Six Republican, Admits He's Simply Blocking Health Care Reform

Mike Enzi, one of three Republicans ostensibly negotiating health care reform as part of the Senate's "Gang of Six," told a Wyoming town hall crowd that he had no plans to compromise with Democrats and was merely trying to extract concessions.

"It's not where I get them to compromise, it's what I get them to leave out," Enzi said Monday, according to the Billings Gazette.

Read it all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Five Myths About Health Care in the Rest of the World

Journalist and author T.R. Reid set out on a global tour of hospitals and doctors' offices, all in the hopes of understanding how other industrialized nations provide affordable, effective universal health care. The result: his book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.

By T.R. Reid:
As Americans search for the cure to what ails our health-care system, we've overlooked an invaluable source of ideas and solutions: the rest of the world. All the other industrialized democracies have faced problems like ours, yet they've found ways to cover everybody -- and still spend far less than we do.

I've traveled the world from Oslo to Osaka to see how other developed democracies provide health care. Instead of dismissing these models as "socialist," we could adapt their solutions to fix our problems. To do that, we first have to dispel a few myths about health care abroad:

1. It's all socialized medicine out there.
Not so. Some countries, such as Britain, New Zealand and Cuba, do provide health care in government hospitals, with the government paying the bills. Others -- for instance, Canada and Taiwan -- rely on private-sector providers, paid for by government-run insurance. But many wealthy countries -- including Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Switzerland -- provide universal coverage using private doctors, private hospitals and private insurance plans.

In some ways, health care is less "socialized" overseas than in the United States. Almost all Americans sign up for government insurance (Medicare) at age 65. In Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, seniors stick with private insurance plans for life. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the planet's purest examples of government-run health care.

2. Overseas, care is rationed through limited choices or long lines.
Generally, no. Germans can sign up for any of the nation's 200 private health insurance plans -- a broader choice than any American has. If a German doesn't like her insurance company, she can switch to another, with no increase in premium. The Swiss, too, can choose any insurance plan in the country.

In France and Japan, you don't get a choice of insurance provider; you have to use the one designated for your company or your industry. But patients can go to any doctor, any hospital, any traditional healer. There are no U.S.-style limits such as "in-network" lists of doctors or "pre-authorization" for surgery. You pick any doctor, you get treatment -- and insurance has to pay.

Canadians have their choice of providers. In Austria and Germany, if a doctor diagnoses a person as "stressed," medical insurance pays for weekends at a health spa.

As for those notorious waiting lists, some countries are indeed plagued by them. Canada makes patients wait weeks or months for nonemergency care, as a way to keep costs down. But studies by the Commonwealth Fund and others report that many nations -- Germany, Britain, Austria -- outperform the United States on measures such as waiting times for appointments and for elective surgeries.

In Japan, waiting times are so short that most patients don't bother to make an appointment. One Thursday morning in Tokyo, I called the prestigious orthopedic clinic at Keio University Hospital to schedule a consultation about my aching shoulder. "Why don't you just drop by?" the receptionist said. That same afternoon, I was in the surgeon's office. Dr. Nakamichi recommended an operation. "When could we do it?" I asked. The doctor checked his computer and said, "Tomorrow would be pretty difficult. Perhaps some day next week?"

3. Foreign health-care systems are inefficient, bloated bureaucracies.
Much less so than here. It may seem to Americans that U.S.-style free enterprise -- private-sector, for-profit health insurance -- is naturally the most cost-effective way to pay for health care. But in fact, all the other payment systems are more efficient than ours.

U.S. health insurance companies have the highest administrative costs in the world; they spend roughly 20 cents of every dollar for nonmedical costs, such as paperwork, reviewing claims and marketing. France's health insurance industry, in contrast, covers everybody and spends about 4 percent on administration. Canada's universal insurance system, run by government bureaucrats, spends 6 percent on administration. In Taiwan, a leaner version of the Canadian model has administrative costs of 1.5 percent; one year, this figure ballooned to 2 percent, and the opposition parties savaged the government for wasting money.

The world champion at controlling medical costs is Japan, even though its aging population is a profligate consumer of medical care. On average, the Japanese go to the doctor 15 times a year, three times the U.S. rate. They have twice as many MRI scans and X-rays. Quality is high; life expectancy and recovery rates for major diseases are better than in the United States. And yet Japan spends about $3,400 per person annually on health care; the United States spends more than $7,000.

4. Cost controls stifle innovation.
False. The United States is home to groundbreaking medical research, but so are other countries with much lower cost structures. Any American who's had a hip or knee replacement is standing on French innovation. Deep-brain stimulation to treat depression is a Canadian breakthrough. Many of the wonder drugs promoted endlessly on American television, including Viagra, come from British, Swiss or Japanese labs.

Overseas, strict cost controls actually drive innovation. In the United States, an MRI scan of the neck region costs about $1,500. In Japan, the identical scan costs $98. Under the pressure of cost controls, Japanese researchers found ways to perform the same diagnostic technique for one-fifteenth the American price. (And Japanese labs still make a profit.)

5. Health insurance has to be cruel.
Not really. American health insurance companies routinely reject applicants with a "preexisting condition" -- precisely the people most likely to need the insurers' service. They employ armies of adjusters to deny claims. If a customer is hit by a truck and faces big medical bills, the insurer's "rescission department" digs through the records looking for grounds to cancel the policy, often while the victim is still in the hospital. The companies say they have to do this stuff to survive in a tough business.

Foreign health insurance companies, in contrast, must accept all applicants, and they can't cancel as long as you pay your premiums. The plans are required to pay any claim submitted by a doctor or hospital (or health spa), usually within tight time limits. The big Swiss insurer Groupe Mutuel promises to pay all claims within five days. "Our customers love it," the group's chief executive told me. The corollary is that everyone is mandated to buy insurance, to give the plans an adequate pool of rate-payers.

The key difference is that foreign health insurance plans exist only to pay people's medical bills, not to make a profit. The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage.

In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really "foreign" to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we're Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we're Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we're Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we're Burundi or Burma: In the world's poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can't pay stay sick or die.

This fragmentation is another reason that we spend more than anybody else and still leave millions without coverage. All the other developed countries have settled on one model for health-care delivery and finance; we've blended them all into a costly, confusing bureaucratic mess.

Which, in turn, punctures the most persistent myth of all: that America has "the finest health care" in the world. We don't. In terms of results, almost all advanced countries have better national health statistics than the United States does. In terms of finance, we force 700,000 Americans into bankruptcy each year because of medical bills. In France, the number of medical bankruptcies is zero. Britain: zero. Japan: zero. Germany: zero.

Given our remarkable medical assets -- the best-educated doctors and nurses, the most advanced hospitals, world-class research -- the United States could be, and should be, the best in the world. To get there, though, we have to be willing to learn some lessons about health-care administration from the other industrialized democracies.

Reid is a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and the former chief of the paper's London and Tokyo bureaus.

Reid was the lead correspondent for the 2008 Frontline documentary Sick Around the World, which examined five other capitalist democracies, looking for lessons on health-care delivery. His books include Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West and The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy.

Health Care Reform: Granny Knows Why You Need a Public Health Care Plan

"It's very difficult to be a Boomer or older and be against health care reform, because you may have ten years until you can limp over the finish line to Medicare, and those will be ten years of very expensive insurance– even if you work for a large corporation. Unfortunately, the sheer demographic impact of an aging population will drive up premiums as well as costs. And during that time, you may find yourself uninsurable if things go on the way they are now. And then if you get sick, you will be bankrupt. We will be forced to use the system more as we age, because we will need those inhalers, stents, radiation treatments, mammograms, hip replacements, and glycometers.

"We already know this, because we are either there, or have already been there. I spent ten years paying for my entire health care. I arrived at Medicare nearly unable to walk. Luckily, I had always taken care of myself and didn't have any internal problems, just orthopedic decrepitude from running and lifting weights. Still, I was damned glad to get on the public plan and get my hip replacement. Could I have waited another six months if I had been in Canada? Sure. What I wanted was to be free of pain and not have to pay $50,000 for that privilege.

"We are not afraid anyone will pull the plug on us. In fact, the closer we get to that time, the more we pray we can get someone to stop treating us when our conditions are hopeless and let us go quietly without pain and suffering, without toxic chemo that won't help or surgeries that are unproven and just weaken us further."

Read it all at Women's Health Online

Europe leads in pharmaceutical research

Our uniquely American health care system is noted for its high prices for relative mediocrity. Some contend that our pharmaceutical industry provides an exception. It doesn't. We are paying high prices for new chemical entities that over 85 percent of the time are providing us with no real benefit over existing products.

Many contend nevertheless that innovations provided by U.S. pharmaceutical firms are well worth our very high prices. Yet productivity of European pharmaceutical firms remains even higher, and they are able to provide new products at much lower prices.

When reform advocates look at the excessive costs of U.S. health care, two favorite targets are the private insurance industry and the pharmaceutical firms. Policies that would reduce these burdens are no secret. Physicians for a National Health Program has described policies that would eliminate the private insurance burden. Arjun Jayadev and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, in the article cited above, provide examples of policies that would increase value in our purchasing of pharmaceuticals.

So what is Congress's response? They intend to expand the dysfunctional private insurance markets, and use more of our tax money for subsidies. For the biotech industry they are expanding data exclusivity thereby keeping generics off the market for longer periods. Reform is going to bring us more overpriced, inadequate private insurance plans and more overpriced pharmaceuticals/biologics.

Tell Congress that reform is not about enhancing the business models of the insurance and pharmaceutical firms. It’s about making health care affordable and accessible for everyone. Go back and get it right.

Read it all at PNHP's Official Blog

Exploring the Concept of Single Payer

The fact that the entire August issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law is devoted to exploring single payer certainly indicates that the concept has not died within the policy community.

Although a majority (but by no means all) of the political community dismisses single payer as not being politically feasible, much of the policy community accepts it as a feasible policy approach that would bring affordable health care to everyone. Even those opposed based on ideology understand clearly the feasibility of single payer from the policy perspective. Otherwise why would the opponents of reform keep insisting that policies that improve our health care financing would inevitably lead to a single payer system?

Read it all at PNHP's Official Blog

Public Stuff is Bad


AARP Poll: 8 in 10 Back Public Option

From MyDD:

A new survey commissioned by the AARP asks respondents to what degree they support or oppose "[s]tarting a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase if they can't afford private plans offered to them" -- a public option, in other words. The results are interesting, though not necessarily surprising to those who have been closely following the debate.

All: 79 percent favor/18 percent oppose
Democrats: 89 percent favor/8 percent oppose
Republicans: 61 percent favor/33 percent oppose
Independents: 80 percent favor/16 percent oppose

Not only does a public option enjoy strong support (AARP finds 37 percent strongly supporting such a choice), it enjoys broad support -- a finding based not only in this new survey but also in SurveyUSA polling released last week. Indeed, a supermajority of even Republicans supports a federal program to provide individuals with a choice for their health insurance coverage, with just a third of the party membership opposing such a plan.

So why, again, are supporters of a public option finding such difficulty in Congress?

Remembering Ted Kennedy's Prescient 2002 Speech Against The Iraq War

On September 27, 2002, Kennedy gave a speech at Johns Hopkins' Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. concerning the war.

In the speech, Kennedy evinced many of the same qualities for which he is being lionized today. His oration combined the powerful idealism that powered his opposition to the invasion with the same generosity of spirit that fueled so many across-the-aisle gestures, and, in the speech, revealed itself in a refusal to demonize his political opponents. One other aspect of the speech that might be worth mentioning today? The fact that Kennedy got it right.

Read it all at Huffington Post

I Guess Dead Patients Cost Insurance Less Than Living Ones

Right now, I have dropped my par­tic­i­pa­tion in every insur­ance plan except Medicare. I can tell you from first-hand expe­ri­ence that the pri­vate man­aged care plans are out of con­trol with their denials, pre-authorization require­ments, and drug for­mu­lary restric­tions. Plain old Medicare is the last bas­tion of health care insurance that actu­ally allows the doc­tor to make a deci­sion on what a patient needs with­out hav­ing to fill out reams of paper­work or spend end­less amounts of time on hold, wait­ing for insur­ance com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives who barely have a high school educa­tion to tell me if I can pro­vide needed pro­ce­dures or spe­cial­ist refer­rals for patients they’ve never laid a hand on.

Read it all at Progressive Nation

I’m a Death Panel

A doctor demonstrates how the conversations he has with his patients about those "dealth panel" decisions generally go. Read it at Feministe

Insurance lobby sent thousands of employees to town-halls

A spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's trade group, admitted in an article published Monday that as many as 50,000 industry employees are involved in an effort to fight back against aggressive healthcare reform.

The admission, published in the last sentence of a Wall Street Journal article, highlights the stakes of potential healthcare reform for the private health insurance industry. Insurers and investors alike are terrified at the prospect of a so-called “public option,” which would create a government-run health insurance program to compete with private insurers. Because the government plan wouldn't have to earn a profit, the plan would be able to undercut the premiums of private firms, pressuring profit margins.

Read it all at Progressive Nation

Ted Kennedy - The Lion Rests but The Dream Will Never Die

'We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make.' - Ted Kennedy

I've been gone since last Friday. Came home after midnight last night more renewed and hopeful than I've been in a while. Then this news...
From CNN:
(CNN) -- Sen. Edward Kennedy, the patriarch of the first family of Democratic politics, died at Tuesday night in his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He was 77.

"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," a family statement said. "We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice."

A year and a day ago, Ted Kennedy gave a speech in Denver which stirred the soul of every listener, which summed up the courage and the humanity with which he had conducted his life and career.

The following is Ted Kennedy's presidential concession speech to Jimmy Carter in 1980 on the floor of the Democratic Convention. At the time, many thought it would be the last of the famous Camelot speeches by the Kennedy's.

Rate it up at YouTube

Text of the full speech:
Thanks very much, Barbara Mikulski, for your very eloquent, your eloquent introduction. Distinguished legislator, great spokeswoman for economic democracy and social justice in this country, I thank you for your eloquent introduction.

Well, things worked out a little different from the way I thought, but let me tell you, I still love New York.

My fellow Democrats and my fellow Americans, I have come here tonight not to argue as a candidate but to affirm a cause.

I'm asking you -- I am asking you to renew the commitment of the Democratic Party to economic justice.

I am asking you to renew our commitment to a fair and lasting prosperity that can put America back to work.

This is the cause that brought me into the campaign and that sustained me for nine months across a 100,000 miles in 40 different states. We had our losses, but the pain of our defeats is far, far less than the pain of the people that I have met.

We have learned that it is important to take issues seriously, but never to take ourselves too seriously.

The serious issue before us tonight is the cause for which the Democratic Party has stood in its finest hours, the cause that keeps our Party young and makes it, in the second century of its age, the largest political Party in this republic and the longest lasting political Party on this planet.

Our cause has been, since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the cause of the common man and the common woman.

Our commitment has been, since the days of Andrew Jackson, to all those he called "the humble members of society -- the farmers, mechanics, and laborers." On this foundation we have defined our values, refined our policies, and refreshed our faith.

Now I take the unusual step of carrying the cause and the commitment of my campaign personally to our national convention. I speak out of a deep sense of urgency about the anguish and anxiety I have seen across America.

I speak out of a deep belief in the ideals of the Democratic Party, and in the potential of that Party and of a President to make a difference. And I speak out of a deep trust in our capacity to proceed with boldness and a common vision that will feel and heal the suffering of our time and the divisions of our Party.

The economic plank of this platform on its face concerns only material things, but it is also a moral issue that I raise tonight. It has taken many forms over many years. In this campaign and in this country that we seek to lead, the challenge in 1980 is to give our voice and our vote for these fundamental democratic principles.

Let us pledge that we will never misuse unemployment, high interest rates, and human misery as false weapons against inflation.

Let us pledge that employment will be the first priority of our economic policy.

Let us pledge that there will be security for all those who are now at work, and let us pledge that there will be jobs for all who are out of work; and we will not compromise on the issues of jobs.

These are not simplistic pledges. Simply put, they are the heart of our tradition, and they have been the soul of our Party across the generations. It is the glory and the greatness of our tradition to speak for those who have no voice, to remember those who are forgotten, to respond to the frustrations and fulfill the aspirations of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land.

We dare not forsake that tradition.

We cannot let the great purposes of the Democratic Party become the bygone passages of history.

We must not permit the Republicans to seize and run on the slogans of prosperity. We heard the orators at their convention all trying to talk like Democrats. They proved that even Republican nominees can quote Franklin Roosevelt to their own purpose.

The Grand Old Party thinks it has found a great new trick, but 40 years ago an earlier generation of Republicans attempted the same trick. And Franklin Roosevelt himself replied, "Most Republican leaders have bitterly fought and blocked the forward surge of average men and women in their pursuit of happiness. Let us not be deluded that overnight those leaders have suddenly become the friends of average men and women."

"You know," he continued, "very few of us are that gullible." And four years later when the Republicans tried that trick again, Franklin Roosevelt asked, "Can the Old Guard pass itself off as the New Deal? I think not. We have all seen many marvelous stunts in the circus, but no performing elephant could turn a handspring without falling flat on its back."

The 1980 Republican convention was awash with crocodile tears for our economic distress, but it is by their long record and not their recent words that you shall know them.

The same Republicans who are talking about the crisis of unemployment have nominated a man who once said, and I quote, "Unemployment insurance is a prepaid vacation plan for freeloaders." And that nominee is no friend of labor.

The same Republicans who are talking about the problems of the inner cities have nominated a man who said, and I quote, "I have included in my morning and evening prayers every day the prayer that the Federal Government not bail out New York." And that nominee is no friend of this city and our great urban centers across this nation.

The same Republicans who are talking about security for the elderly have nominated a man who said just four years ago that "Participation in social security should be made voluntary." And that nominee is no friend of the senior citizens of this nation.

The same Republicans who are talking about preserving the environment have nominated a man who last year made the preposterous statement, and I quote, "Eighty percent of our air pollution comes from plants and trees." And that nominee is no friend of the environment.

And the same Republicans who are invoking Franklin Roosevelt have nominated a man who said in 1976, and these are his exact words, "Fascism was really the basis of the New Deal." And that nominee whose name is Ronald Reagan has no right to quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The great adventures which our opponents offer is a voyage into the past. Progress is our heritage, not theirs. What is right for us as Democrats is also the right way for Democrats to win.

The commitment I seek is not to outworn views but to old values that will never wear out. Programs may sometimes become obsolete, but the ideal of fairness always endures. Circumstances may change, but the work of compassion must continue. It is surely correct that we cannot solve problems by throwing money at them, but it is also correct that we dare not throw out our national problems onto a scrap heap of inattention and indifference. The poor may be out of political fashion, but they are not without human needs. The middle class may be angry, but they have not lost the dream that all Americans can advance together.

The demand of our people in 1980 is not for smaller government or bigger government but for better government. Some say that government is always bad and that spending for basic social programs is the root of our economic evils. But we reply: The present inflation and recession cost our economy 200 billion dollars a year. We reply: Inflation and unemployment are the biggest spenders of all.

The task of leadership in 1980 is not to parade scapegoats or to seek refuge in reaction, but to match our power to the possibilities of progress. While others talked of free enterprise, it was the Democratic Party that acted and we ended excessive regulation in the airline and trucking industry, and we restored competition to the marketplace. And I take some satisfaction that this deregulation legislation that I sponsored and passed in the Congress of the United States.

As Democrats we recognize that each generation of Americans has a rendezvous with a different reality. The answers of one generation become the questions of the next generation. But there is a guiding star in the American firmament. It is as old as the revolutionary belief that all people are created equal, and as clear as the contemporary condition of Liberty City and the South Bronx. Again and again Democratic leaders have followed that star and they have given new meaning to the old values of liberty and justice for all.

We are the Party -- We are the Party of the New Freedom, the New Deal, and the New Frontier. We have always been the Party of hope. So this year let us offer new hope, new hope to an America uncertain about the present, but unsurpassed in its potential for the future.

To all those who are idle in the cities and industries of America let us provide new hope for the dignity of useful work. Democrats have always believed that a basic civil right of all Americans is that their right to earn their own way. The Party of the people must always be the Party of full employment.

To all those who doubt the future of our economy, let us provide new hope for the reindustrialization of America. And let our vision reach beyond the next election or the next year to a new generation of prosperity. If we could rebuild Germany and Japan after World War II, then surely we can reindustrialize our own nation and revive our inner cities in the 1980's.

To all those who work hard for a living wage let us provide new hope that their price of their employment shall not be an unsafe workplace and a death at an earlier age.

To all those who inhabit our land from California to the New York Island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf stream waters, let us provide new hope that prosperity shall not be purchased by poisoning the air, the rivers, and the natural resources that are the greatest gift of this continent. We must insist that our children and our grandchildren shall inherit a land which they can truly call America the beautiful.

To all those who see the worth of their work and their savings taken by inflation, let us offer new hope for a stable economy. We must meet the pressures of the present by invoking the full power of government to master increasing prices. In candor, we must say that the Federal budget can be balanced only by policies that bring us to a balanced prosperity of full employment and price restraint.

And to all those overburdened by an unfair tax structure, let us provide new hope for real tax reform. Instead of shutting down classrooms, let us shut off tax shelters. Instead of cutting out school lunches, let us cut off tax subsidies for expensive business lunches that are nothing more than food stamps for the rich.

The tax cut of our Republican opponents takes the name of tax reform in vain. It is a wonderfully Republican idea that would redistribute income in the wrong direction. It's good news for any of you with incomes over 200,000 dollars a year. For the few of you, it offers a pot of gold worth 14,000 dollars. But the Republican tax cut is bad news for the middle income families. For the many of you, they plan a pittance of 200 dollars a year, and that is not what the Democratic Party means when we say tax reform.

The vast majority of Americans cannot afford this panacea from a Republican nominee who has denounced the progressive income tax as the invention of Karl Marx. I am afraid he has confused Karl Marx with Theodore Roosevelt -- that obscure Republican president who sought and fought for a tax system based on ability to pay. Theodore Roosevelt was not Karl Marx, and the Republican tax scheme is not tax reform.

Finally, we cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance. We must -- We must not surrender -- We must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. Let us insist on real controls over what doctors and hospitals can charge, and let us resolve that the state of a family's health shall never depend on the size of a family's wealth.

The President, the Vice President, the members of Congress have a medical plan that meets their needs in full, and whenever senators and representatives catch a little cold, the Capitol physician will see them immediately, treat them promptly, fill a prescription on the spot. We do not get a bill even if we ask for it, and when do you think was the last time a member of Congress asked for a bill from the Federal Government? And I say again, as I have before, if health insurance is good enough for the President, the Vice President, the Congress of the United States, then it's good enough for you and every family in America.

There were some -- There were some who said we should be silent about our differences on issues during this convention, but the heritage of the Democratic Party has been a history of democracy. We fight hard because we care deeply about our principles and purposes. We did not flee this struggle. We welcome the contrast with the empty and expedient spectacle last month in Detroit where no nomination was contested, no question was debated, and no one dared to raise any doubt or dissent.

Democrats can be proud that we chose a different course and a different platform.

We can be proud that our Party stands for investment in safe energy, instead of a nuclear future that may threaten the future itself. We must not permit the neighborhoods of America to be permanently shadowed by the fear of another Three Mile Island.

We can be proud that our Party stands for a fair housing law to unlock the doors of discrimination once and for all. The American house will be divided against itself so long as there is prejudice against any American buying or renting a home.

And we can be proud that our Party stands plainly and publicly and persistently for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Women hold their rightful place at our convention, and women must have their rightful place in the Constitution of the United States. On this issue we will not yield; we will not equivocate; we will not rationalize, explain, or excuse. We will stand for E.R.A. and for the recognition at long last that our nation was made up of founding mothers as well as founding fathers.

A fair prosperity and a just society are within our vision and our grasp, and we do not have every answer. There are questions not yet asked, waiting for us in the recesses of the future. But of this much we can be certain because it is the lesson of all of our history: Together a President and the people can make a difference. I have found that faith still alive wherever I have traveled across this land. So let us reject the counsel of retreat and the call to reaction. Let us go forward in the knowledge that history only helps those who help themselves.

There will be setbacks and sacrifices in the years ahead; but I am convinced that we as a people are ready to give something back to our country in return for all it has given to us.

Let this -- Let this be our commitment: Whatever sacrifices must be made will be shared and shared fairly. And let this be our confidence: At the end of our journey and always before us shines that ideal of liberty and justice for all.

In closing, let me say a few words to all those that I have met and to all those who have supported me at this convention and across the country. There were hard hours on our journey, and often we sailed against the wind. But always we kept our rudder true, and there were so many of you who stayed the course and shared our hope. You gave your help; but even more, you gave your hearts.

And because of you, this has been a happy campaign. You welcomed Joan, me, and our family into your homes and neighborhoods, your churches, your campuses, your union halls. And when I think back of all the miles and all the months and all the memories, I think of you. And I recall the poet's words, and I say: "What golden friends I had."

Among you, my golden friends across this land, I have listened and learned.

I have listened to Kenny Dubois, a glassblower in Charleston, West Virginia, who has ten children to support but has lost his job after 35 years, just three years short of qualifying for his pension.

I have listened to the Trachta family who farm in Iowa and who wonder whether they can pass the good life and the good earth on to their children.

I have listened to the grandmother in East Oakland who no longer has a phone to call her grandchildren because she gave it up to pay the rent on her small apartment.

I have listened to young workers out of work, to students without the tuition for college, and to families without the chance to own a home.

I have seen the closed factories and the stalled assembly lines of Anderson, Indiana and South Gate, California, and I have seen too many, far too many idle men and women desperate to work.

I have seen too many, far too many working families desperate to protect the value of their wages from the ravages of inflation.

Yet I have also sensed a yearning for a new hope among the people in every state where I have been.

And I have felt it in their handshakes, I saw it in their faces, and I shall never forget the mothers who carried children to our rallies.

I shall always remember the elderly who have lived in an America of high purpose and who believe that it can all happen again.

Tonight, in their name, I have come here to speak for them. And for their sake, I ask you to stand with them. On their behalf I ask you to restate and reaffirm the timeless truth of our Party.

I congratulate President Carter on his victory here.

I am -- I am confident that the Democratic Party will reunite on the basis of Democratic principles, and that together we will march towards a Democratic victory in 1980.

And someday, long after this convention, long after the signs come down and the crowds stop cheering, and the bands stop playing, may it be said of our campaign that we kept the faith.

May it be said of our Party in 1980 that we found our faith again.

And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special meaning for me now:

"I am a part of all that I have met
To [Tho] much is taken, much abides
That which we are, we are --
One equal temper of heroic hearts
Strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end.

For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

The man who gave us SCHIP, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and COBRA, who erased immigration quotas, who defined liberalism, who stood up to Reagan. A real American hero. We must pass a workable, sustainable, affordable Public Option this year in his name. That is the legacy he deserves and our nation needs.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gone for a few days

Hate to leave during this critical time in our Healthcare Reform debate, but I've got a doctor's apt and then am off for a couple nights camping in the mountains.

Keep Standing Up while I am gone.

Fringe leftist losers: wrong even when they're right

From Glenn Greenwald at

...Throughout the Bush years, those who said patnetly true things were continuously dismissed as fringe, conspiracy-driven leftist-losers: those who questioned whether Saddam really had WMDs; those who argued that the invasion of Iraq would lead to long-term military bases in that country; those who worried that warrantless eavesdropping and Patriot Act powers would lead to abuses; those who opposed the war in Afghanistan on the ground that it would be unwinnable, etc. etc.

Having been proven right about all of those things hasn't changed perceptions any at all. As Ambinder's comments today reflect, the paramount unchangeable Beltway Truth is that those who distrust government claims are unSerious Fringe Leftist Losers. Even when they turn out to be right, they're still that. And no matter how many times journalists like Ambinder are proven wrong in "giv[ing] the government the benefit of some doubt, even having learned lessons about giving the government that benefit," they still continue to do it and believe it is the right and responsible thing to do.

Powerful political leaders are, as Jay Rosen often puts it, the ruling priests in the journalists' church of Savviness. Trusting the politically powerful is the establishment religion and carrying forth their message is the prime function of establishment journalists (note how Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, just two months ago, argued that the "public option" was crucial but then, like so many liberal pundits eager to maintain and build close relations with the White House, got dutifully on board with the White House message, by completely and shamelessly changing course the minute the White House did). Distrusting the statements and actions of government leaders was once the central value of our political system and of basic journalism. But now, especially in the eyes of establishment journalists, it is the hallmark of the unSerious, fringe, leftist loser, no matter how many times it is proven right.

Read It All!

Philip Pizzo, Dean of Stanford U Med School Nails Gingrich for Fearmongering

Excerpt from: Don't buy Newt Gingrich's doomsday healthcare prophecies

Like many other doctors, I have looked to the prospect of reform as a way for America to reclaim its place as an international leader in healthcare, and for physicians to focus on patients rather than bureaucracy and the bottom line. Undertaking such an important shift in how we deliver healthcare requires a robust national debate. Some leaders, however, choose to rely on fear instead of facts to make their case.

Newt Gingrich says nothing new in his Aug. 16 Times Op-Ed article, 'Healthcare rationing: Real scary.' Gingrich presents the same old litany of scare tactics that we've heard in the past: government bureaucracies run amok and limited choices resulting in rationed healthcare. Gingrich's doomsday prophecies are simply not consistent with the facts.

Every healthcare consumer in this nation (that's all of us) has a substantial stake in the success of reform. If we fail to pass the reform legislation, we will continue on our current downward financial spiral, and our fragmented healthcare system will ultimately collapse under the weight of increasing costs. Don't think for a minute that stopping reform is good for America. It's like deciding that a serious disease will get better if we ignore or fail to treat it -- even if the required treatment is painful.

Tort Reform Unlikely to Cut Health Care Costs

The health economists and independent legal experts who study the issue, however, don't believe that's true. They say that malpractice liability costs are a small fraction of the spiraling costs of the U.S. health care system, and that the medical errors that malpractice liability tries to prevent are themselves a huge cost– both to the injured patients and to the health care system as a whole.

"It's really just a distraction," said Tom Baker, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of "The Medical Malpractice Myth." "If you were to eliminate medical malpractice liability, even forgetting the negative consequences that would have for safety, accountability, and responsiveness, maybe we'd be talking about 1.5 percent of health care costs. So we're not talking about real money. It's small relative to the out-of-control cost of health care."

Read it all at Progressive Nation

Unions go global to tell truth on NHS

A three-million strong global union has launched a campaign to counter lies being spread by some opponents of the White House's health reform plans.

US rightwingers assert that US President Barack Obama's drive to guarantee affordable universal health-care amounts to a "socialist" takeover of the private insurance industry.

But the Workers Uniting union, a partnership between British union Unite and the US-Canadian United Steelworkers (USW), observed that the establishment of "an egalitarian health-care system" is "about human and civil rights."

Read it all at Morning Star

Wendell Potter Says 'The Fat Cats Are Winning,' This is A 'Pig of a Bill.'

Not only is Obama clearly ready to throw the public option overboard, he is embracing the requirement that we all be forced to buy insurance from private insurers. That means your tax dollars and mine will be used to pay subsidies to the big insurers to provide coverage to people who can't afford to buy their policies, because the big insurers charge far more than they should because Wall Street investors demand that they do.

One of the people who undoubtedly talked Obama away from the public option and into supporting this mandate is his new BFF, Aetna CEO Ron Williams. Williams, who made $65 million off of Aetna's policyholders' premiums over the past two years and who was the mastermind behind Aetna's shedding of eight million members a few years ago to meet Wall Street's demands, is the insurance industry's leading champion of requiring us all to buy insurance. And, of course, without a public option, we'll all be forced to buy coverage from Aetna or one of the other private insurers.

According to a recent article in Forbes, Williams has been to the White House a half a dozen times recently to advise the president and his staff on health care reform. That same article quoted a Wall Street analyst as saying that Aetna likely will dump about 600,000 policyholders during the coming months to satisfy its investors' unrelenting profit demands.

During his speech in Montana, Obama talked a lot of trash about the insurance industry. Don't be fooled by that tough talk. It's all part of a strategy to try get us to believe we'll get the reform he promised during the campaign. Industry leaders are in fact delighted he's denouncing their behavior, because they believe most of his supporters -- who were hopeful the stars might finally have aligned for real reform -- will be fooled into thinking the reform bill that reaches his desk will benefit them more than the special interests with their armies of lobbyists. And they know the nonprofit cooperatives Sebelius and Gibbs are now trying to sell us on don't have a prayer of succeeding. The big for-profits will never let them get off the ground in any meaningful way.

Sadly, I believe the fat cats are winning and that the bill Congress sends the president will be one that gives an industry with an unsustainable business model a new lease on life and a guarantee of unprecedented future profits.

So I hope the president's aides are buying lots of lipstick. He'll need all he can get to put on that pig of a bill.

Source: Crooks and Liars