Friday, July 31, 2009

Weiner Pushes for Single-Payer Plan

Rep. Anthony Weiner introduces his Single Payer Amendment during the Health Care Markup Session of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today.

Rate it up at YouTube

Single Payer Is ON the Table! Take that Baucus!

July 31, 2009

Anthony Weiner is about to be the new hero of the progressive crowd after getting a promise from Nancy Pelosi to debate — and vote — on a single-payer plan to solve health care reform.

Weiner got that promise after he agreed to withdraw an amendment to essentially create Medicare for the whole nation in the Energy and Commerce Committee health care markup session this evening.

The Brooklyn-Queens Rep. looked a little surprised when Chairman Henry Waxman said Pelosi would allow that vote, and made Waxman repeat the deal to be sure it was clear and on the record.

It’s an especially big deal for advocates of a single health care system — who see it as cheaper and simpler than the complicated measure being drawn up — because they have been complaining that they have not even been able to get an airing of their position.

And having the vote of the floor of the House will force members to declare a position, and bring much more attention to the idea.

Update: Weiner, who high-fived Tammy Baldwin after getting the deal, crows in a quick press release:

“It’s a Better Plan and now it’s on Center Stage,” says Weiner

Washington, DC - Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee announced today that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to give Single-Payer an up or down vote when healthcare reform is considered before year’s end.

Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Co-Chair of the Middle Class Caucus and member of the Energy & Commerce Committee who led the effort with Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA); Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY); Rep. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL); Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL); and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), released the following statement:

“Single-payer is a better plan and now it is on center stage. Americans have a clear choice. Their Member of Congress will have a simpler, less expensive and smarter bill to choose. I am thrilled that the Speaker is giving us that choice.”

Souce: NY Daily News

I was watching the Committee markup session and was as shocked as Weiner when Waxman made the offer.

I know that Pelosi is using it to scare GOP and Blue Dogs into action - but damn - I have worked for this for 6 years and more and I can not contain myself.

Now we need to figure out how to get Weiner and Donna Edwards around the news circuit to explain what single payer is - they are both so intelligent and good at speaking - very articulate.

Friday: Crucial Vote on the Weiner Amendment for Single Payer Healthcare

TAKE ACTION: One week ago, we eagerly anticipated a crucial vote on single-payer Medicare for All ( H.R.676 ) in the House Energy & Commerce Committee, sponsored by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). But then seven BlueDogs waged a highly-publicized war against a "robust public option" and the vote was delayed for a full week.

The vote will be TODAY ( Friday ). We have nine single-payer Democrats for sure: Tammy Baldwin, Michael Doyle, Eliot Engel, Anna Eshoo, Gene Green, Edward Markey, Janice Schakowsky, Anthony Weiner, and Peter Welch.

UPDATE - Vote scheduled for around 2:00 PM Eastern

Five more Democrats are leaning single-payer but still uncommitted. Please call each one and give them one crucial reason to support single-payer from our petition.

Leaning towards Yes vote:
  1. Diana DeGette CO01 - 202-225-4431
  2. Jane Harman CA36 - 202-225-8220
  3. Christopher Murphy CT05 - 202-225-4476
  4. Frank Pallone NJ06 - 202-225-4671 - @FrankPallone
  5. Bobby Rush IL01 - 202-225-4372

Be concise and practice in advance so you can speak quickly (or leave a voicemail) because they are getting swamped.

Report the results of your calls here.

If you have more time, these 14 Democrats support a "public option" at best. But that "public option" (a new government program to compete with private insurance) was disastrously weakened this week by the BlueDogs. They banned the use of Medicare pricing to reduce costs and thereby expand availability.

Try to persuade these 14 to vote for single-payer instead of a worthless BlueDog "public option."

  1. Rick Boucher VA09 - 202-225-3861
  2. Bruce Braley IA01 - 202-225-2911
  3. G.K. Butterfield NC01 - 202-225-3101
  4. Lois Capps CA23 - 202-225-3601
  5. Kathy Castor FL11 - 202-225-3376
  6. John Dingell MI15 - 202-225-4071
  7. Charles Gonzalez TX20 - 202-225-3236
  8. Jay Inslee WA01 - 202-225-6311 - @RepInsleeNews
  9. Doris Matsui CA05 - 202-225-7163
  10. Jerry McNerney CA11 - 202-225-1947
  11. John Sarbanes MD03 - 202-225-4016
  12. Bart Stupak MI01 - 202-225-4735
  13. Betty Sutton OH13 - 202-225-3401
  14. Henry Waxman (Chair) CA30 - 202-225-3976

Don't let anyone tell you single-payer can't pass: the Kucinich Amendment for a single-payer "state option" passed by a shocking 25-19 bi-partisan majority in the House Education and Labor Committee on July 17. The Weiner Amendment will pass on Friday if enough Democrats vote for it!

A victory on the Weiner Amendment would make a huge difference. Please call!

Voices Raised for Single Payer at Capitol Hill Rally

Rep. Donna Edwards on Healthcare Reform

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), Congressional Progressive Caucus, Member Talks Healthcare on CSpan's Washington Journal. Click here for the C-SPAN Video

Weiner Challenges the Republicans to Put-Up or Shut-Up on Healthcare - with charts!

Please rate it up at YouTube

Progressive Caucus Threatens Vote Against Health Care Bill

Unhappy with the compromise reached by Blue Dog Democrats and Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA), the House Progressive Caucus says members could vote against the House Energy & Commerce Cmte.'s health care bill.
C-SPAN Video here

Hope for Health Reform? Push Single-Payer Now

By John Nichols for the Nation

It is unsettling to listen as President Obama and House Speaker Pelosi talk up a health-care reform "plan" that has yet to take shape in any realistic form.

The vagueness on the part of the president and the speaker is, of course, intentional.

Obama and Pelosi are still pushing the notion that they can get some version of their public-private stew cooked up before the year is done -- although not, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, before the president and the Congress take the extended summer vacations that will kill whatever sense of official urgency might have existed.

Reid has taken some hits for suggesting that it would be a good idea to try and get health-care reform right, rather than just rush through a plan that fails to cover all Americans or control costs.

But that requires details. And neither Obama nor Pelosi is dealing in details right now because that's where the devil resides.

Here is the truth they tend to avoid mentioning: A robust public plan, with the quality and flexibility that is required to make it appealing to all Americans, would wipe out its insurance-industry competitors in short order. Why would anyone opt for more of the profiteering, restrictions and actual denials of needed treatment -- especially for people with pre-existing conditions -- that the insurance industry uses to make money rather than provide Americans with the medical care they require? And why would any employer choose to subsidize the stock value of health-care conglomerates when it is possible to opt for the better care and controlled costs of a public plan?

Unfortunately, the creation of a robust public plan, one that can compete on the basis of quality and affordability, will require a significant federal expenditure in the form of start-up money as well as regulatory protection for the program. That's where the devil comes in.

The powerful insurance and private health-care lobbies, which fear honest competition as the vampire does the stake, are going to do everything in their power to accomplish three things:

1. Scare Americans with hypocritical talk about the hefty price-tag for getting a robust public plan off the ground.

2. Undermine the structural supports for a public plan so that it cannot compete -- effectively turning it into a sub-standard "alternative" that will appeal only to those who have no other options.

3. Fiddle with the overall "reform" so that most of the taxpayer money that is expended streams into the accounts of private firms.

In the state of confusion created the industry's lobbying and advertising campaigns, chances are that the scaremongers and the profiteers will come out ahead.

They usually do.

And their task is being made easier by in-the-pocket "Democrats" like Montana Senator Max Baucus, the Senate Finance Committee chair who is collecting huge contributions from hospitals, insurers and medical interest groups in return for doing their dirty work. If it was just Baucus, that would be a problem.

But it's not just Baucus. The monied Montanan has all too many Democratic allies -- especially among the Democratic Leadership Council-allied "New Democrats." The "New Dems" are far greedier and more troubling players than the small cadre of southern and rural Blue Dog Democrats. Of particular concern is the determination of so many of the "New Dems" to follow Baucus' lead and grab up what Jerry Flanagan, a health-care analyst with the group Consumer Watchdog describes as the "huge down payment" of campaign contributions from corporations by that want any health care "reform" warped to favor their interests.

The corporate special interests and their willing accomplices within the ranks of the Democratic party are capitalizing on the confusion about the scope and character of proposed reforms. In so doing, they are creating a circumstance where the push for real reform can and will be thwarted unless there is a major pushback from real reformers.

That pushback can and should take the form of a renewed effort to promote the right repair: a single-payer program.

There has already been some progress in this regard. The recent 25-19 vote by the House Committee on Education and Labor for an amendment allowing states to create single-payer health care systems if they so choose was an example of this.

A bigger test could come this week, as the House Energy and Commerce Committee considers Congressman Anthony Weiner's proposal to replace the convoluted public-private scheme that is outlined in the Obama/House leadership bill with the easily-understood and efficient single-payer plan contained in HR 676 that has been endorsed by 86 members of Congress.

Were the committee to endorse the Weiner amendment, single-payer would be on the table -- as it should be.

Even if the committee fails to do the right thing, a strong vote for single-payer would send an essential signal about the need for a robust public option.

The stalwart single-payer backers at Progressive Democrats for America are organizing on behalf of the Weiner amendment, urging targeted calls to members of the committee.

The website is maintaining a whip count, which includes phone numbers of members who are being targeted. Heading the list of those expected to cast "yes" votes for single-payer is Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, who has long been in the forefront of the real reformers in the House.

Baldwin and Schakowsky are staying steady.

And rightly so.

This is not the time to waver is our commitment to real reform.

Indeed, it is the time to press those who know the right reform to stop wavering.

Physicians for a National Health Care Plan has launched a smart -- and necessary -- new campaign to get President Obama to abandon experiments that are likely to fail in favor of the reform he supported before he became president: a single-payer plan.

"Like most of our colleagues and the majority of the general public, we believe that single-payer reform is the standard against which other health reforms should be measured. Sound single-payer proposals have been introduced in both the House of Representatives (H.R. 676, The U.S National Health Care Act) and the Senate (S. 703, The American Health Security Act of 2009)," the physicians write. "Single payer reform, as embodied in these bills, would eliminate the bewildering patchwork of private insurance plans with their exorbitant overhead and profits, as well as the costly paperwork burdens they impose on providers. These savings on bureaucracy - nearly $400 billion annually – are sufficient to cover all of the uninsured and to provide first dollar coverage for all Americans. No other approach can provide comparable coverage at a cost our nation can afford."
That's the proper prescription. Obama and Pelosi should listen to the doctors and follow it. But that will only happen if those who favor real reform seize on this uncertain but not unforgiving moment to make the case for single-payer.

For-profit insurance: No value added

In the health care debate, the one question we should be asking is: What is the marginal value of having private health insurance?

After all, if the purpose of health insurance is to mitigate the financial consequences of catastrophic illness or injury, the current level of medical bankruptcy shows that having such “insurance” is, for many Americans, anything but. Recent research from Harvard University and Ohio University showed that 78% of the individuals whose illness led to bankruptcy had health insurance at the onset of the illness that pushed them or their families into bankruptcy court.

Yet we continue to trust private insurers. Policymakers and federal legislators seem to have blind faith in their ability to solve the problems of American health care.

Read it all at the Detroit Free Press

Krugman: Health Care Realities

The key thing you need to know about health care is that it depends crucially on insurance. You don’t know when or whether you’ll need treatment — but if you do, treatment can be extremely expensive, well beyond what most people can pay out of pocket.Triple coronary bypasses, not routine doctor’s visits, are where the real money is, so insurance is essential.

Yet private markets for health insurance, left to their own devices, work very badly: insurers deny as many claims as possible, and they also try to avoid covering people who are likely to need care.

Still, most Americans do have health insurance, and are reasonably satisfied with it. How is that possible, when insurance markets work so badly? The answer is government intervention.

Most obviously, the government directly provides insurance via Medicare and other programs. Before Medicare was established, more than 40 percent of elderly Americans lacked any kind of health insurance. Today, Medicare — which is, by the way, one of those “single payer” systems conservatives love to demonize — covers everyone 65 and older. And surveys show that Medicare recipients are much more satisfied with their coverage than Americans with private insurance.

Still, most Americans under 65 do have some form of private insurance. The vast majority, however, don’t buy it directly: they get it through their employers. There’s a big tax advantage to doing it that way, since employer contributions to health care aren’t considered taxable income. But to get that tax advantage employers have to follow a number of rules; roughly speaking, they can’t discriminate based on pre-existing medical conditions or restrict benefits to highly paid employees.

And it’s thanks to these rules that employment-based insurance more or less works, at least in the sense that horror stories are a lot less common than they are in the individual insurance market.

So here’s the bottom line: if you currently have decent health insurance, thank the government. It’s true that if you’re young and healthy, with nothing in your medical history that could possibly have raised red flags with corporate accountants, you might have been able to get insurance without government intervention. But time and chance happen to us all, and the only reason you have a reasonable prospect of still having insurance coverage when you need it is the large role the government already plays.

Read it all at

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rep. Anthony Weiner Calls Republican bluffs on health care

Source: Rachel Maddow's show

Health Care Reform: 450,000 Doctors Can't Be Wrong

Klein: How Special Interests Could Block Health Reform

As long ago as 1982, the economist Mancur Olson made the argument, in The Rise and Decline of Nations, that as a democracy matures, special interests grow more entrenched. Their intense dedication to their own specific needs, Olson wrote, often trumps the broader, but less focused, interests of society. And that was before the rise of cable news and talk radio. It was before the utterly corrupting effect of televised advertising on politicians really kicked in — the need to raise money (from interest groups, mostly) and to exercise extreme caution lest one of your votes be used to decapitate you in a 20-second ad. It was before the Democrats and Republicans transformed themselves into more strictly ideological parties. Put all these factors in the cauldron and you create a poisonous atmosphere that makes legislative action on big issues almost impossible. It is also a prescription for conservative governance of the sort that has thrived since Ronald Reagan. Doing nothing is the easiest thing.
Since most people like the health care they have, the President has been forced to say, "If you like the health care you have, you can keep it." But it is difficult to enact substantive reforms when 80% of the system stays the same. The need for simplicity has also forced Obama to stick with — indeed, to double down on — the current practice of having employers provide health insurance. This is the weakest, most illogical part of the system. It is difficult to sustain in a global economy where American corporations have overseas competitors that aren't saddled with providing health care for their employees.

Read it all at TIME

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to health care activists on Capitol Hill

Rate it up at YouTube

Weiner introduces bill to kill Medicare

Love it - Call Their bluff....

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) says he plans to introduce a politically-targeted amendment forcing Republicans to vote "yes" or "no" on continuing Medicare, the government-run health care program for seniors, on the 44th anniversary of its enactment.

Weiner [who plans to vote yes, obviously] said he wants to tack the amendment onto the health care bill being marked up today -- to call bluff on Republicans who say federal intervention into health care has been a failure.

"It’s put-up or shut-up time for the phonies who deride the so-called ‘public option’," Weiner said.
Read it all at

August Can't Be a "Recess" for Citizens Who Want Health Care Reform That Will Work

TAKE ACTION: We will turn the Congressional vacation to our advantage. As the hated Murder by Spreadsheet insurance industry pummels the American people via the public airways with nonstop lies, we need your help to systematically contact every member of the Progressive Caucus to tell them you still want a Single Payer Plan, and to demand that they pledge to vote against any bill that does not contain a strong public option.

There is a new tool - the Vacation Tracker linked below - to track the vacation schedules and movements of progressive members of Congress.

The great folks at FireDog Lake are asking you to let them know where these Congressional members will be, so the information can be posted and citizens, (especially constituents), can meet progressives wherever they are during the recess, and explain to them why they must take the Whip Count Pledge to hold the line in the House come September.

We need YOU to help us make calls to let the White House know that we're aware of the game they're trying to pull on us by trying to call the Conrad co-op scam the "public plan"--and we have to urge Obama to restate his support for a public option, one that is national, administered by the government, and competes with private insurers--like the public option that's in the House Tri-Committee bill and in the Senate HELP bill.

Some senators like Maria Cantwell, and Olympia Snowe, are trying to call the Conrad co-op scam a "public plan." In some of the details leaked yesterday about the Senate Finance Committee bill, the co-operative imagined by Conrad isn't a national co-operative, but rather regional co-operatives which would render them unable to compete fairly with private insurers, and wouldn't do much to keep prices down.

We really need the progressives in the House to continue to stand as a bulwark against whatever crap legislation the Senate might come up with--and we've got to make sure that the best parts of the Senate HELP is reconciled with the best parts of the Senate Finance bill.

We need forty House members to pledge to vote against any bill that has co-ops or triggers the Senate

We need to have the progressives stand up for this. And this is how we're going to accomplish this mission.

The center of activity will shortly move to the states. Progressives will head home, at some point, and we need to assemble a calendar of where they'll be and when they'll be either in their district offices or at public events.

We need everyone who wants health care reform that will help Americans and be sustainable to get involved NOW!




We'll make them regret they ever went home on vacation without passing health care reform, and for allowing the Blue Dog Democrats to hijack the entire process on the health care reform passage of the Tri-Committee bill!

Hat tips to slinkerwink and nyceve at Daily Kos for this content and their work on the issue.

Progressive Caucus members protest deal with Blue Dogs

House liberals have quickly rejected a healthcare compromise their leaders forged with centrist Blue Dogs, putting the deal on shaky ground only hours after it was announced.

"It's unacceptable," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "We're not going to vote for anything that doesn't have a robust public plan."

The Progressive Caucus has 83 members. Members are circulating a letter for signatures protesting the deal.

Liberals are hopinjavascript:void(0)g to get 50 signatures on the letter, to make it clear they have the votes to defeat the biil.

Read it all at
Keep making calls and try to meet with your reps over the recess. A bill without a strong Medicare like public option and that covers all Americans is not worth having.

Henry Waxman wins breakthrough on health bill - Patrick O'Connor and Carrie Budoff Brown

A quartet of moderate Blue Dog Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee agreed to support the Democrats' sweeping health care bill as long as party leaders postpone a House vote until the fall and Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) cut its costs by $100 billion, exempt more small businesses from a requirement to provide health care to their employees and allow doctors, hospitals and other providers to negotiate their payments directly with the government under any public coverage plan.

News of this breakthrough follows some rare positive news for Senate Democrats from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office; legislation being cobbled together by a bipartisan group of six senators on the Finance Committee would cost less than $900 billion and cover 95 percent of Americans.

The new version of the bill would allow for states to set up health care co-ops, which the Senate Finance Committee has advanced as an alternative to the government-run insurance plan advanced in the House. The House bill still includes the public insurance option, but liberals are concerned that the co-ops create a backdoor for states and insurers to avoid using these public plans.

In the deal, Waxman would have to cut somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 to $65 billion in subsidies to help lower-income people purchase insurance through the newly-established exchanges and another $30 to $35 billion from Medicaid.

But allowing doctors and other health care providers to negotiate rates with the government under a public option would cost the government about $60 billion, according to a preliminary CBO estimate. And exempting small businesses with a combined salary of $250,000-a-year to $500,000-a-year would cost the government $30 billion, according to the same estimates.
Read it all at

Elizabeth Edwards Shows How to Tell a Liar on Healthcare

In an interview with Rachel Maddow, Elizabeth Edwards dropped this enormously helpful key on when to tell if an opponent to healthcare reform is lying:
Let me say to the American public: if you hear somebody saying, we can't afford healthcare reform, because...if they use any of these words: "socialization," or "government control of your healthcare decisions," or if they mention "England," "France," or "Canada," you can be assured that they are not telling you the truth. They are trying to scare you away from a plan that can make a real difference, not just in American families, but in the American economy as a whole.
Source: Crooks and Liars

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bait and switch: How the “public option” was sold

An absolutely must read by Kip Sullivan

The people who brought us the “public option” began their campaign promising one thing but now promote something entirely different. To make matters worse, they have not told the public they have backpedalled. The campaign for the “public option” resembles the classic bait-and-switch scam: tell your customers you’ve got one thing for sale when in fact you’re selling something very different.

When the “public option” campaign began, its leaders promoted a huge “Medicare-like” program that would enroll about 130 million people. Such a program would dwarf even Medicare, which, with its 45 million enrollees, is the nation’s largest health insurer, public or private. But today “public option” advocates sing the praises of tiny “public options” contained in congressional legislation sponsored by leading Democrats that bear no resemblance to the original model.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the “public options” described in the Democrats’ legislation might enroll 10 million people and will have virtually no effect on health care costs, which means the “public options” cannot, by themselves, have any effect on the number of uninsured. But the leaders of the “public option” movement haven’t told the public they have abandoned their original vision. It’s high time they did.

“Public option” refers to a proposal, as Timothy Noah put it, “dreamed up” by Jacob Hacker when Hacker was still a graduate student working on a degree in political science. In two papers, one published in 2001 and the second in 2007, Hacker, now a professor of political science at Berkeley, proposed that Congress create an enormous “Medicare-like” program that would sell health insurance to the non-elderly in competition with the 1,000 to 1,500 health insurance companies that sell insurance today.

Obviously the “public option” in the Senate bill (zero enrollees, 34 million people left uninsured) and the “public option” in the House bill (10 million enrollees (maybe!); 17 million people left uninsured) are a far cry from the “public option” originally proposed by Professor Hacker (129 million enrollees; 2 million people left uninsured). Have we heard the Democrats in Congress who drafted these provisions utter a word about how different their “public options” are from the large Medicare-like program that Hacker proposed and his allies publicized? What have Professor Hacker and his allies had to say?

In public comments about the Democrats’ “public option” provisions, the leading lights of the “public option” movement imply that Hacker’s model is what Congress is debating. Sometimes they come right out and praise the Democrats’ version as “robust” and “strong.” But I cannot find a single example of a a statement by a “public option” advocate warning the public of the vast difference between Hacker’s original elephantine, “Medicare-like” program and the Democrats’ mouse version.

For example, on June 23, Hacker testified before the House Education and Labor Committee that “the draft legislation prepared by [the] special tri-committee promises enormous progress.” He went on to enumerate all the benefits of a “public option.” Yet the House tri-committee proposal bore no resemblance to the public plan he described in his papers and that the Lewin Group analyzed. Later, when Kaiser Health News asked Hacker in a July 6 interview why “your signature idea – a public plan – has become central to the health care reform debate,” Hacker again praised his “public plan” proposal and offered no hint that the “public option” so “central to the debate” was very different from the one he originally proposed.

Now let us compare Hacker’s original model with the mousey “public options” proposed by the Senate HELP Committee and the House. Of Hacker’s five criteria, only one is met by these bills! Both proposals require the insurance industry to cover the same benefits the “public option” must cover. None of the other four criteria are met. The “public option” is not pre-populated, the subsidies to employers and to individuals go to the “public option” and the insurance industry, employees of large employers cannot buy insurance from the “public option” in the first few years after the plan opens for business and maybe never (that decision will be made by whoever is President around 2015), and the “public option” is not authorized to use Medicare’s provider payment rates. (The House bill comes the closest to authorizing use of Medicare’s rates; it authorizes Medicare’s rates plus 5 percent).

Is it any wonder the CBO concluded the Democrats’ “public option” will be a tiny little creature incapable of doing much of anything? More curious is that CBO gave the House “public option” any credit at all (you will recall CBO said it would enroll maybe 10 million people). The CBO should have asked, Can the “public option” - as presented in either bill - survive?

How did the “Medicare Plus” proposal of 2001 (when Hacker first proposed it) get transformed into the tiny “public options” contained in the Democrats’ 2009 legislation? The answer is that somewhere along the line it became obvious that the Hacker model was too difficult to enact and had to be stripped down to something more mouse-like in order to pass. Did the leading “public option” advocates realize this early in the campaign? Or midway through the campaign when the insurance industry began to attack the “public option”? Or late in the campaign when they found it difficult to persuade members of Congress to support Hacker’s original model? Whatever the answer, will they find it in their hearts to tell their followers their original strategy was wrong?

Those of us in the American single-payer movement must continue to educate Congress and the public on the need for a single-payer system. We must also convince advocates of the “public option” that they have made two serious mistakes and, if they learn quickly from these mistakes, that real reform is still possible.

Conventional wisdom holds that if the Democrats don’t pass a health care reform bill by December, they will have to wait till 2013 to try again. But if the “public option” movement were to join forces with the single-payer movement, the two movements could prove the conventional wisdom wrong. This won’t happen, obviously, if the “public option” movement fails to perceive the reasons it failed.

It is conceivable the “public option” movement could decide the bait-and-switch strategy was wrong and that their only error was not to stick with Hacker’s original model. It should be obvious now that that would also be a tactical blunder. We have plenty of evidence now that conservatives will react to the mousey version of the “public option” as if it were “a stalking horse for single-payer.” We can predict with complete certainty they will treat Hacker’s original version as something even closer to single-payer. If a proposal is going to be abused as if it were single-payer, why not actually propose a single-payer? At least then, when a particular session of Congress comes and goes and we haven’t enacted a single-payer system, we will have educated the public about the benefits of a single-payer and have further strengthened the single-payer movement.

To sum up, “public option” advocates must choose between continuing to promote the “public option” and seeing their hopes for cost containment and universal coverage go up in smoke for another four years, and throwing their considerable influence behind single-payer legislation. At this late date in the 2009 session, it is unlikely that a single-payer bill could be passed even if unity within the universal coverage movement could be achieved. But if the “public option” wing and the single-payer wing join together to demand that Congress enact a single-payer system, December 2009 need not constitute a deadline.
Please read it all at PNHP’s official Blog
[Emphasis added by me]

Health Care Conflict of Interest - We Need Full Disclosure

The majority of Americans overwhelmingly support and want (2 to 1) health care reform and we want it now. Health insurers, pharma and many physiciansdon't want meaningful reform because they know they will make less money and will curtail their way of doing business. Small business owners see that Congress supports a mandate, but not a Public Option and are afraid of losing their businesses.
Please read the entire article - it is really good. It is money vs us. We have to speak louder to be heard over the sound of the cash changing hands.

Obama's Doctor: President's Vision For Health Care Bound To Fail

The man Barack Obama consulted on medical matters for over two decades said on Tuesday that the president's vision for health care reform is bound for failure.

Dr. David Scheiner, a 70-year Chicago-based physician who treated Obama for more than 20 years, said he was disheartened by the health care legislation his former patient is championing, calling it piecemeal and ineffectual.

"I look at his program and I can't see how it's going to work," Scheiner told the Huffington Post. "He has no cost control. There would be no effective cost control in his program. The [Congressional Budget Office] said it's going be incredibly expensive ... and the thing that I really am worried about is, if it is the failure that I think it would be, then health reform will be set back a long, long time."

Scheiner, who prefers a more progressive approach to reform, was hesitant about trying to divine the president's motives, although he said he believed that "in his heart of hearts" Obama "may well like a single-payer program."

"His pragmatism is what is overwhelming him." Scheiner added: "I think he's afraid that he can't get anything through if he doesn't go through this incredibly compromised program."

All of which makes his current criticism of Obama's health care policies all the more difficult. While Scheiner raved about the president's intellectual curiosity, he was at loss for words as to why Obama had consulted with private industry executives more than primary care physicians. And while he spoke glowingly about the president's oratorical talents, he expressed disappointment that Obama had not done more to explain the benefits of single-payer coverage to the American public.

The White House has said that the president moved away from a single-payer approach both because of philosophical objections (consumers should be allowed to keep their coverage) as well as political realities (limited support for the proposal in Congress). The administration's position increasingly resembles the maxim, Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

"It's a good question," Scheiner said, when asked if having watered-down reform become law was better than getting a single-payer system stalled in Congress. "Is something better than nothing? That is a hard one for me. That is a difficult one, because, in the end, I think [Obama's] program is going to fail."
Read it all at Huffington Post

An interview with Dr. Scheiner on Democracy Now!:

Doctors Speak Out for Health Care Reform

Rate it up at YouTube

Obama Pokes Fun At 'Don't Touch My Medicare' People

President Obama poked fun today at people who want the government to stay out of Medicare.

"I got a letter the other day from a woman. She said, 'I don't want government-run health care. I don't want socialized medicine. And don't touch my Medicare,'" Obama said at an AARP-hosted town hall on health care. The crowd laughed.

"I wanted to say, you know, that's what Medicare is: a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with," Obama said, smiling, as he made the case for a public option to compete with private insurance plans.

Source with video at Talkingpoints Memo

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Health-care Reform and Congress

Pretty much everybody who believes that health care should be a human right, not a commercial commodity, and who makes a serious study of the abstract substance of the matter, concludes that the best solution would be (to borrow Obama’s words at the press conference) “what’s called a single-payer system, in which everybody is automatically covered.” But, by the same token, pretty much everybody who believes the same thing, and who makes a serious study of the concrete politics of the matter, concludes that a change so sudden and so wrenching—and so threatening to so many powerful interests—is beyond the capacities of our ramshackle political mechanisms. The American health-care system is bloated, wasteful, and cruel. Under the health-insurance-reform package now being bludgeoned into misshapen shape on Capitol Hill, it will still be bloated, wasteful, and cruel—but markedly less so. The House bill, for example, would make basic coverage available to tens of millions who now have none. It would curb the practice of denying insurance to persons with “preëxisting conditions.” (We’re all born with a preëxisting condition: mortality.) It would make insurance coverage portable, which would be a boon for both individual careers and the wider economy. Even one of these things would be a colossal improvement on the status quo.

But the Blue Dogs are playing a dangerous game of chicken. Even if they’re right that reform would do too little about costs, the alternative—which, as the President has repeatedly pointed out, is the status quo—would do nothing. Ultimately, real cost control will require a strong push away from fee-for-service medicine. In Massachusetts, which three years ago enacted its own version of near-universal health insurance, the cost of expanded coverage has created pressure for just such a push. That state’s experience suggests that the cost problem, too, will be easier to solve under a reformed system, with all its other benefits, than under the one we have now

Read it all at The New Yorker

Matt Taibbi: The Health Care Bill Dies?

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters. The situation we have here is an angry and desperate population that at long last has voted in a majority that it believes should be able to pass a health care bill. It expects something to be done. The task of the lawmakers on the Hill, at least as they see things, is to create the appearance of having done something. And that’s what they’re doing. Personally, I think they’re doing a lousy job even of that. I lauded Roddick for playing out the string with heart, and giving a good show. But these Democrats aren’t even pretending to give a shit, not really. I mean, they’re not even willing to give up their vacations.

Read it all at True/Slant

Rep. Maxine Waters on blue dogs and the health care bill

Rate it up at YouTube

Health-Reform Foes Draw Industry Donations

By Dan Eggen

A study out today on health-care contributions provides new evidence for an old saying: Money talks.

The analysis by the Public Campaign Action Fund found that federal lawmakers who voted against proposed reform legislation this year received 65 percent more money from the health and insurance sectors than those who voted 'yes' on the bills. The votes so far have come along party lines, with Republicans aligned against the measures.

What's more, the study found, the 193 House and Senate lawmakers who sit on the key committees considering health-care reform have accepted an average of nearly $1 million each in political contributions from hospitals, insurers and other health-related donors over the course of their congressional careers.

The study offers another perspective on the dramatic influence of the health-care sector, which ranks as one of the biggest campaign and lobbying forces in Washington. The industry is spending well over $1 million a day on lobbying as Congress wrestles with President Obama's proposed health reforms. Leading the charge are hundreds of former congressional staffers who are now employed by health firms to press the industry's case on Capitol Hill.

Read it all at the Washington Post

On the Hill, Elizabeth Edwards Calls Attention to Medical Bankruptcies

By Ed O'Keefe

Elizabeth Edwards today lent her political star power to a underlooked element of the ongoing health care debate: the rise in bankruptcies related to health care costs.

A recent Harvard study concluded that at least 62 percent of bankruptcy debtors can trace at least part of their financial hardship to medical debt. Data from 2007 also indicate a 49 percent increase in medical bankruptcies as a proportion of all bankruptcy filings between 2001 and 2007. The total number of medical-related bankruptcies is likely higher; study data was compiled before the recession began last year.

Lawmakers met to review the medical bankruptcy study as their colleagues continue crafting legislation to overhaul the nation’s health care system.

“Successful health reform must not just make health insurance affordable, affordable health insurance has to make health care affordable,” Edwards told lawmakers at a morning hearing called by the House Judiciary subcommittee on commercial and administrative law.

Read it all at the Washington Post

House Democrats Gather for Health Care 101

I love it!

Staffers led the members through the bill section by section -- from Division A, Title I, Subtitle A, Section 101 all the way through Division C, Title V, Subtitle D, Section 2531.

"No one's going to say we haven't read the bill," said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, as he took a break from the closed-door gathering.

Read it all at

No reason Republicans can't do the same. No excuse for not reading bills before votes.

Krugman: Why Americans hate single-payer insurance

Because they don’t know they have it. A commenter points me to this:

At a recent town-hall meeting in suburban Simpsonville, a man stood up and told Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.”

“I had to politely explain that, ‘Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,’ ” Inglis recalled. “But he wasn’t having any of it.”
One of the truly amazing and depressing things about the health reform debate is the persistence of fear-mongering over “socialized medicine” even though we already have a system in which the government pays substantially more medical bills (47% of the total) than the private insurance industry (35%).

In a way, this is the flip side of the persistent belief that the free market can cure healthcare, even though there are no places where it actually has; people also believe that government-provided insurance can’t work, even though there are many places where it does — and one of those places is the United States of America.


And let's not forget the VA system, which really is socialized medicine and TriCare.

GOP on health care, more refusal than reform


Monday, July 27, 2009

Bill Maher Takes On America's 'Profit Motives'

Rate it up at YouTube

Death by Insurance Company

A friend told me yesterday about a late friend of hers. Diagnosed with breast cancer she had been scheduled for a double mastectomy. Faced with the horrifying prospect of a $30,000 payout, the insurance company pored over her records to see if she was truly deserving.

They decided that she had, improperly, failed to inform them of her high blood pressure years before when she signed up for the policy. They cleverly dodged the bullet by refusing payment just in the nick of time, I suppose by canceling her policy. Although the woman’s doctor affirmed that she had been completely truthful in her application, the courageous insurance company hung tough. Deprived of life saving surgery, the woman’s cancer spread and she died. There must have been a few knowing high fives at the water cooler that day, and some nice bonuses at the end of the year.

Read it all at Daily Kos

The Healthcare Option the Media Doesn’t Want to Talk About

Great article by David Swanson about how the media refuses to educate citizens about single-payer health insurance:

President Obama said last week:

“Now, the truth is that, unless you have a — what’s called a single-payer system, in which everybody is automatically covered, then you’re probably not going to reach every single individual because there’s always going to be somebody out there who thinks they’re indestructible and doesn’t want to get health care, doesn’t bother getting health care, and then, unfortunately, when they get hit by a bus, end up in the emergency room and the rest of us have to pay for it.”

Another name for “what’s called a single-payer system” would be: healthcare as a human right, not a commodity to be purchased. Many humans have this right. They just aren’t Americans.

Obama’s mention of single-payer, in passing, as something that would be better than anything else, but something that mysteriously lies out of reach, is typical of the very few mentions of single-payer healthcare in the U.S. corporate media.

One Boston Globe column by Jonathan Cohn supports single-payer. And a short op-ed, accompanied by two opposing op-eds, in the Los Angeles Times, was written by a Brit who wants to know what in the world is wrong with single-payer. He won’t find an answer in the U.S. media, which is barely even willing to explain what single-payer is.

Read it all at The Public Record

Paul Krugman: An Incoherent Truth

Right now the fate of health care reform seems to rest in the hands of relatively conservative Democrats — mainly members of the Blue Dog Coalition, created in 1995. And you might be tempted to say that President Obama needs to give those Democrats what they want.

But he can’t — because the Blue Dogs aren’t making sense.

To grasp the problem, you need to understand the outline of the proposed reform (all of the Democratic plans on the table agree on the essentials.)

Reform, if it happens, will rest on four main pillars: regulation, mandates, subsidies and competition.

By regulation I mean the nationwide imposition of rules that would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on your medical history, or dropping your coverage when you get sick. This would stop insurers from gaming the system by covering only healthy people.

On the other side, individuals would also be prevented from gaming the system: Americans would be required to buy insurance even if they’re currently healthy, rather than signing up only when they need care. And all but the smallest businesses would be required either to provide their employees with insurance, or to pay fees that help cover the cost of subsidies — subsidies that would make insurance affordable for lower-income American families.

Finally, there would be a public option: a government-run insurance plan competing with private insurers, which would help hold down costs.

The subsidy portion of health reform would cost around a trillion dollars over the next decade. In all the plans currently on the table, this expense would be offset with a combination of cost savings elsewhere and additional taxes, so that there would be no overall effect on the federal deficit.

So what are the objections of the Blue Dogs?

Well, they talk a lot about fiscal responsibility, which basically boils down to worrying about the cost of those subsidies. And it’s tempting to stop right there, and cry foul. After all, where were those concerns about fiscal responsibility back in 2001, when most conservative Democrats voted enthusiastically for that year’s big Bush tax cut — a tax cut that added $1.35 trillion to the deficit?

But it’s actually much worse than that — because even as they complain about the plan’s cost, the Blue Dogs are making demands that would greatly increase that cost.

There has been a lot of publicity about Blue Dog opposition to the public option, and rightly so: a plan without a public option to hold down insurance premiums would cost taxpayers more than a plan with such an option.

But Blue Dogs have also been complaining about the employer mandate, which is even more at odds with their supposed concern about spending. The Congressional Budget Office has already weighed in on this issue: without an employer mandate, health care reform would be undermined as many companies dropped their existing insurance plans, forcing workers to seek federal aid — and causing the cost of subsidies to balloon. It makes no sense at all to complain about the cost of subsidies and at the same time oppose an employer mandate.

So what do the Blue Dogs want?

Maybe they’re just being complete hypocrites. It’s worth remembering the history of one of the Blue Dog Coalition’s founders: former Representative Billy Tauzin of Louisiana. Mr. Tauzin switched to the Republicans soon after the group’s creation; eight years later he pushed through the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, a deeply irresponsible bill that included huge giveaways to drug and insurance companies. And then he left Congress to become, yes, the lavishly paid president of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry lobby.

One interpretation, then, is that the Blue Dogs are basically following in Mr. Tauzin’s footsteps: if their position is incoherent, it’s because they’re nothing but corporate tools, defending special interests. And as the Center for Responsive Politics pointed out in a recent report, drug and insurance companies have lately been pouring money into Blue Dog coffers.

But I guess I’m not quite that cynical. After all, today’s Blue Dogs are politicians who didn’t go the Tauzin route — they didn’t switch parties even when the G.O.P. seemed to hold all the cards and pundits were declaring the Republican majority permanent. So these are Democrats who, despite their relative conservatism, have shown some commitment to their party and its values.

Now, however, they face their moment of truth. For they can’t extract major concessions on the shape of health care reform without dooming the whole project: knock away any of the four main pillars of reform, and the whole thing will collapse — and probably take the Obama presidency down with it.

Is that what the Blue Dogs really want to see happen? We’ll soon find out.


A reality check on a reality check

Holmes has become the darling of conservatives and the stop-public-health-care movement in the United States. She's testified before Congress, been on Fox TV as well as CNN, and her story is retold on hundreds of right wing blogs. She's now doing a nasty TV ad for Patients United Now, a Republican-led group opposed to Obama's reforms. You can see the ad at The group is spending almost $2 million on it to target politicians in Washington.

For a person living with cancer, the idea that someone's care could be unreasonably delayed is truly scary. It also doesn't reflect the experience I've had or the experiences that have been shared with me by so many other patients. Even CNN interviewed Doug Wright, a more typical patient in Toronto who is receiving very speedy treatment for his cancer.

Still, I found Holmes tale both compelling and troubling. So I decided to check a little further. On the Mayo Clinic's website, Shona Holmes is a success story. But it's somewhat different story than all the headlines might have implied. Holmes' "brain tumour" was actually a Rathke's Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland. To quote an American source, the John Wayne Cancer Center, "Rathke's Cleft Cysts are not true tumors or neoplasms; instead they are benign cysts."

There's no doubt Holmes had a problem that needed treatment, and she was given appointments with the appropriate specialists in Ontario. She chose not to wait the few months to see them. But it's a far cry from the life-or-death picture portrayed by Holmes on the TV ads or by McConnell in his attacks.

Read it all at the Otawa Citizen

Well now she is about $100,000 in debt - and no doubt, helping the GOP is assisting in paying that off - but we have further proof of the way the GOP will lie and use disinformation to spread fear and defeat health care reform that would help all Americans.

What is single payer?

Just in case anyone still doesn't know...

At YouTube

Susan Bayh an issue in fight over health care

Bayh contends the $2.1 million that his wife, Susan, earned from public health-care companies from 2006 to 2008 represents no conflict of interest. Questions persist, however, for at least two reasons. First, Evan Bayh has been unclear about his positions on many issues related to health-care reform. Second, there's the timing of Susan Bayh's rapid rise into corporate governance.

Susan Bayh, who was a midlevel lawyer for the politically active Eli Lilly and Co. while her husband was governor of Indiana, did not serve on the board of a single public health-care company until it was clear her husband was about to ascend to the U.S. Senate. Only one month before Evan Bayh was elected to the Senate in a landslide vote, his wife was appointed to serve on the board of what would become the nation's largest health insurance company -- and arguably the company with the most at stake in the health-care reform debate.

Read it all at The Indianapolis Star

Canadian health care hardly a Marxism threat

Seems that Canadians are finally getting a bit pissed over Republicans continually bashing their health care system. Rightly so and I am glad that they are starting to speak out. The Calgary Herald takes a swat at the misinformation and Rick Scott in particular.

The latest poster girl for the socialism-scaredy cat crowd is Shona Holmes, who re-mortgaged her Waterdown, Ont. home so she could spend $100,000 to get a growth near her pituitary gland treated at the Mayo Clinic. Holmes stars in an ad sponsored by Patients United Now, and she claims Canadian doctors told her a referral to a specialist would take several months. Holmes's pitch is ironically quite a nice plug for Canadian health care, because nobody up here has to remortgage their home or scrounge up $100,000 to pay for their health care. You almost feel like saying, "the defence rests" after that. Holmes also admits health care is "wonderful" in Ontario. Further, the Canadian health-care system prioritizes cases and people whose situations are dire do get in faster; such triaging is done every day with heart bypass surgery and MRIs. Since no one is privy to Holmes's health records, it's impossible to know how urgent her condition was.

The attacks on Canada's health-care system by Americans gleefully pouncing on the things that are wrong, ignore the far greater number of things that are right.

The trouble with America's system is that the horror stories are not the "extreme exceptions." When 50 per cent of Americans who declare bankruptcy do so because they can't pay their medical bills, those are not a few extreme cases.

Both countries need to fix what's wrong in their own systems by looking at best practices elsewhere, with an eye to enhancing universal access, not compromising it.

Read it all here

The Future of Universal Health Care, as of Now

by Robert Reich

Every day that goes by without a vote in the House or Senate on universal health care makes it less likely that major reform will occur, because
(1) opponents have more time to stir up public anxieties about it;
(2) Democrats up for reelection next year come ever closer to the gravitational pull of the midterms, and grow increasingly worried about voting for a bill that could be a political liability in a year when unemployment may well reach double digits and the electorate is restless and unhappy; and
(3), as a result of the first two, proponents increasingly have to rely for support and cover on industries like Big Pharma and insurance, as well as physician specialists and equipment suppliers, none of whom have any interest in fundamental reform but all of whom see possibilities for making more money out of whatever bill emerges.

In other words, next fall we get something called "universal health insurance" that still leaves millions of Americans uninsured and doesn't substantially slow the meteoric rise of health-care costs. That would be a tragedy.

What should be done now to avoid this?

First, the House must enact a bill before August recess even if the Senate is unable to -- and the House bill should include the four key elements that have already emerged from House committees:
(1) a public plan option,
(2) a mandate on all but the smallest employers to provide their employees with health insurance or else pay a tax or fee (so-called "pay or play"),
(3) a requirement that every individual and family buy health insurance, coupled with subsidies for families up to 300 or 400 times the poverty level in order to make sure it's affordable to them; and
(4) a small surtax on the top 1 percent of earners or families to help pay for this subsidy ("tax the wealthy so all Americans can stay healthy.")

Second, the President must tell Congress in no uncertain terms that all four elements are necessary. I believe he should also signal his openness to capping the amount of tax-free health care that individuals or families may receive from employers -- so long as the cap does not erode the tax-free benefits of individuals or families in the bottom 80 percent of the earnings distribution. This is the only funding mechanism that may be able to garner sixty votes in the Senate, and the only one that the Congressional Budget Office has so far said would temper the rise in long-term healthcare costs.

Third, the President should make clear to Big Pharma, private insurers, and other interest groups now supporting the effort that the final bill must contain mechanisms for forcing them to come up with the cost savings each has promised. Otherwise, those savings cannot be assumed -- and they won't be "scored" by the Congressional Budget Office -- thereby making it difficult for waivering members of Congress to vote for the bill.

Fourth, the President should commit to visiting, during the recess, all states of waivering Senate Democrats and even a few moderate Republicans (read Maine), in order to take the case for universal health care directly to their constituents. He or the Vice President and cabinet members should do the same in the congressional districts of all Blue Dog Democrats and other waivering House Democrats.

Finally, you, dear reader, must contact your senators and representatives and explain why you want genuine reform -- incorporating the four elements listed above. Mobilize and energize others to do the same, especially residents of Blue Dog states, including Montana where Senate Finance Chief Max Baucus resides. And if you're able and willing I'd urge you to descend on Washington the moment Congress returns from recess. There is nothing quite as persuasive to a member of Congress as real live constituent demanding real reform.

Source: Robert Reich's Blog

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ezra Klein - The Ghosts of ClintonCare

Erza Klein discusses the fallout of health care reform’s failure in 1994 – Patients and consumers got all of the demerits of Clinton’s plan, but with none of the benefits.

But then a funny thing happened: Managed care came anyway. By last year, only 7 percent of American workers were in "traditional" indemnity health plans, while the rest of us -- or at least those of us fortunate enough to have insurance -- were swimming in the alphabet soup of HMOs and PPOs and HDHPs. We're all in networks now. We don't get our choice of doctor. There's no appeals process. No out-of-pocket caps. Nothing to stop insurers from rejecting our coverage applications based on preexisting conditions. And if we don't like our insurer? Tough.

"We got managed care," says Chris Jennings, who was one of Clinton's top health-care staffers. "But we didn't get the things that would protect us from managed care. We got the Wild West version of it."

Read it all here

CBO: Public Plan Would Increase Tax Revenue and Workers' Wages

A new report [PDF] from the Congressional Budget Office shows that a strong public plan would increase the federal government's tax revenue and wages for some workers. The CBO concludes:

if more employers purchased coverage through the exchanges than we anticipate and purchased somewhat less expensive insurance via the public plan, the principal effect on federal deficits is that those employers would end up increasing their workers’ taxable compensation and thereby would generate slightly higher tax revenues.

This is in addition to reducing the cost of insurance for individuals, reducing the cost of employer provided insurance for small businesses, and reducing the amount in subsidies the government will give to individuals help to buy insurance.

The public option would not cost the federal government money. It would, in fact, save the government money and increase revenue from taxes.

Source: The Walker Report

I still want the CBO to run the numbers for Single Payer...

25 Million Have Insurance, But Not Enough

On Top of 47 Million Americans with No Health Coverage, Underinsured Present a Strong Case for Reform

Linda and John Stewardson of Alexandria, Va. Linda Stewardson survived a brain tumor, but the couple's insurance capped out at $150,000 of coverage and their health care costs have left them owing more than $100,000 in medical bills. More than 25 million Americans like the Stewardsons are considred underinsured, in addition to the 47 million without health insurance.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Source: CBS News

Single-Payer Teach-In

Healthcare-NOW! and Physicians for a National Health Program NY Metro are holding a Single-Payer teach in on organizing for single-payer national health care in New York today. You can download copies of some of the presentations and materials here: Single-Payer Teach-In - Healthcare-NOW!

2,000 Americans get Health Care in animal pens at a fairground

Former insurance executive Wendell Potter told Bill Moyers that he left the insurance industry after attending the Wise County health fair where he saw people being treated in animal stalls and contrasted it with the gold-plated silverware found on the corporate jets he flew. It rekindled something in Potter's conscience, and he decided to testify about insurance industry abuses at Congressional hearings on health care reform.

People are still being treated in animal stalls. The Wise County free health care clinic is being held this weekend. So far, nearly 2,000 Appalachian residents, all of whom can't afford to be treated at doctor's offices due to the lack of affordable and accessible heath insurance, have been treated in the animal stalls of the Wise County Fairgrounds. Here are some photos from the fair:

Here is a link to an article in the Kingsport Times-News about it.

Imagine that you are a diabetic who should be seeing a doctor every 3 or 4 months to avoid complications that could lead to blindness or amputations - but you don't have insurance, so you wait and see one of the doctors donating time to check you in an animal barn at the local fairgrounds once a year... And if you are not lucky enough to live in Wise County where this health fair is held annually, maybe you have to go more than a year for checkups.

And this is in the United States of America - not some 3rd world country.

We need Universal Single Payer health insurance. I think citizens need to continue fighting for that and let the politicians do the compromising. In the end we have to make sure they know that a strong, Medicare like public option is our line in the sand.

Bill Moyers Journal: Health Care Reform - July 24, 2009

Bill Moyers sits down with Trudy Lieberman, director of the health and medical reporting program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and Marcia Angell, senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine.

MARCIA ANGELL: For whatever price they want to charge. Right. And so, this will increase costs. And let me tell you what he's running into, and he'd like to be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, but he won't be able to. If you leave this profit-oriented system in place, you can't both control costs and increase coverage. You inevitably, if you try to increase coverage, increase costs. The only answer, the only answer, and he said it at the beginning of his press conference, is a single payer system. In his first sentence, he said, that is the only way to cover everyone.

BILL MOYERS: But he's also said, if we were starting the system from scratch, we could have single payer. But we're not starting this system from scratch.

MARCIA ANGELL: You know, you don't pour more money into a failing system. You convert.

BILL MOYERS: I saw back in the spring-- the chief lobbyist for the Big Pharma industry, Billy Tauzin, used to be a member of Congress. He was on CNBC. And he was in support of this bill, whatever this bill is. Because it would broaden the industry's customer base by providing subsidies for people to buy--


BILL MOYERS: Do you believe the health care industry when it tells President Obama that "we will voluntarily cut costs"?

MARCIA ANGELL: No. I mean, these are investor owned businesses. If they behave like charities, heads would roll in the executive suites. They are there to maximize profits. And that's exactly what they do.

TRUDY LIEBERMAN: What's happened now is that the industries have gotten pretty much what they want out of the bills that are going forward.

And so, they need to build public support. They need to make everybody in the public realize that they actually are wearing white hats in this one. But behind the scenes, they are lobbying ferociously against the public plan, against cuts in doctors fees, against all kinds of things that they don't want. And for that they're using a different sort of lobbying tactic. All of these are communications or lobbying strategies that they know how to do and they are very excellent at doing them.

MARCIA ANGELL: It's clear that they can turn it to their advantage.


MARCIA ANGELL: That nobody is really trying to break their-- except the single payer people -- their death grip on the system. And here you have hundreds of for profit insurance companies that maximize their income by denying care to the people who need it most. And that's the insurance system. That's how we pay for health care.

But you also have to look at how we deliver health care. And we deliver that, primarily or largely, in for-profit facilities -- businesses, hospitals -- whose interest is in delivering only profitable care. So, we have a system that's through and through, in both the payment system and the delivery system, is oriented toward profits. Neither the Senate nor the House is doing anything to change that.

BILL MOYERS: The President says there will be a public option in my bill that will compete with the private insurance. To bring the cost down.


BILL MOYERS: That's what he said.

TRUDY LIEBERMAN: That's what he says. Again, we get back to the detail question and the particulars, which are so absent in this whole discussion. We don't know what a public plan will look like. And even if there's going to be a public plan. The insurers don't want it. It's not clear that the doctors want it. And the pharmaceutical companies don't want it.

So my question is, are they working behind the scenes to make sure this doesn't happen? My guess is-- my answer is, they probably are.

MARCIA ANGELL: A lot is said about how the public wants to cling to what it has. What I'm finding is something that confirms the polls that have been done. Showing that something like two-thirds of the public would favor a Canadian style or a Medicare for all style single payer system.

The same is true of physicians, now. About 60 percent of physicians favor Medicare for all, or a single payer system. So, what is against it? The pharmaceutical and the insurance industries are the biggest lobbies in Washington. They spend millions and millions on influential members of Congress. And the amount that they are spending now to the Chairman of the relevant health committees has increased enormously in the past few months.

Watch/Read it all: Video and transcript here

Dear Mr. President

Great Must Read piece by Hunter at Daily Kos:

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing you today because I am outraged at the notion of involving government in healthcare decisions like they do in other countries. I believe healthcare decisions should be between myself and my doctor.

Well, that is not strictly true. I believe healthcare decisions should be between myself, my doctor, and my insurance company, which provides me a list of which doctors I can see, which specialists I can see, and has a strict policy outlining when I can and can't see those specialists, for what symptoms, and what tests my doctors can or cannot perform for a given set of symptoms. That seems fair, because the insurance company needs to make a profit; they're not in the business of just keeping people alive for free.

Oh, and also my employer. My employer decides what health insurance company and plans will be available to me in the first place. If I quit that job and find another, my heath insurance will be different, and I may or may not be able to see the same doctor as I had been seeing before, or receive the same treatments, or obtain the same medicines. So I believe my healthcare decisions should be between myself, the company I work for, my insurance company, and my doctor. Assuming I'm employed, which is a tough go in the current economy.

So, Mr. President, I write to you with this demand: we are not a socialist country, one which believes the health of its citizens should come without the proper profit-loss determinations. I believe that my healthcare decisions should be between me, my insurance company plan, my insurance company's list of approved doctors I am allowed to see and treatments I am allowed to get, my insurance company's claims department, the insurance company doctors who have never met me, spoken to me or even personally looked at my files, my own preexisting conditions, my insurance company's crack cost-review and retroactive cancellation and denial squads, my insurance company's executives and board of directors, my insurance company's profit requirements, the shareholders, my employer, and my doctor.

Anything else would be insulting.

Read it all

How Healthcare would look with NO Government Involvement...

by Pinecone in a comment at Daily Kos:

No Medicare
No Medicaid
No Tricare
No regulation of insurance companies
No mandated coverage
No safety regulations on drugs, devices, hospitals, doctors, nurses, technicians, laboratories, imaging facilities

Capitalism and entrepreneurship at its finest.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Republican 10 Point Plan for Health Care

After Rep. Roy Blunt, leader of the supposed House GOP Health Care Solutions Group, suggested Thursday that Republicans won't offer a health care plan of their own, Minority Leader John Boehner insisted one was still in the works.

Of course, the Republican plan as in 1993 is to stop health care reform at all costs to prevent an enduring Democratic majority. Bill Kristol, who told Republicans 16 years ago that there was "no crisis" justifying health care reform then, now simply calls on his party to "kill it." With spinmeisters Frank Luntz and Alex Castellanos supplying the talking points that a supposed "government takeover of health care" is "too much, too fast, too soon," obstructionists like Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe boasted his party would "stall" President Obama's health care initiative to ensure a "huge gain" in the 2010 election. In a nutshell, the GOP is proposing to extend the status quo for a nation gripped by a collapsing health care system.

Here, then, is the Republican 10-Point Plan for Health Care:

1. 50 Million Uninsured in America
2. Another 25 Million Underinsured
3. Employer-Based Coverage Plummets Below 60%
4. Employer Health Costs to Jump by 9% in 2010
5. One in Five Americans Forced to Postpone Care
6. 62% of U.S. Bankruptcies Involve Medical Bills
7. Current Health Care Costs Already Fueling Job Losses
8. 94% of Health Insurance Markets in U.S Now "Highly Concentrated"
9. Dramatic Decline in Emergency Room Capacity
10. Perpetuating Red State Health Care Failure

For the details and data behind each, continue reading at Crooks and Liars

Limbaugh's Lies Sabotage the Health Reform Debate

There's a showdown at the House Energy and Commerce Committee corral. Seven Blue Dog Democrat members are banding together, and if they don't get their way, they can gun down the health care bill.

The Blue Dog Seven are spooked by pressure from their constituents and recent polls that show American's approval of Obama's health care initiative has dropped below 50 percent for the first time.

Drive across the seven states they represent: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah, turn on your car radio, and you'll know why public opinion has changed. According to Pew research, 22 percent of Americans get their news from talk radio. And conservative talkers have been lying to their listeners about what's in the health care bill.

Lies from Sean Hannity like, "If you don't have private insurance the year that this bill is passed, you can't get that later on from your employer." Lies from Rush Limbaugh that the bill would "outlaw individual private coverage." Lies provided in talking points from the Republican National Committee like "Democrats are proposing a government controlled health insurance system, which will control care, treatments, medicines and even what doctors a patient may see."

Tell a lie often enough, and people will believe it.

And there is nobody there to call them on their lies. Nobody there to set the record straight. Nobody to push back against the propaganda that corporate radio promotes in its own political self interest. In the Blue Dog Seven states, just three stations broadcast any kind of progressive talk. Three progressive radio stations in seven entire states. But Sean Hannity "freely" prevaricates on dozens of radio stations; Rush Limbaugh deceives people on 98 in those seven states alone. 98 publicly owned frequencies where public debate comes second to selling ads for Snapple.

Read it all at AlterNet

Liberal Senators Tired Of Baucus' Sell Outs

About time....

Senator Baucus reached an $80 billion “deal” with the pharmaceutical lobby. His “deal” (which should more accurately be called a sellout) denied reforms that could have resulted potentially in billions of dollars in savings.

A group of 22 Democratic senators sent Baucus a letter asking him to break his deal with the drug lobby. They want him to at the least implement a provision from the House bill which would save an additional $63 billion.

Read it all at The Walker Report

CBO deals new blow to health plan

More evidence that we need Single-Payer plan if we want to cover everyone AND save money.

A key House chairman and moderate House Democrats on Tuesday agreed to a White House-backed proposal that would give an outside panel the power to make cuts to government-financed health care programs. White House budget director Peter Orszag declared the plan "probably the most important piece that can be added" to the House's health care reform legislation.

But on Saturday, the Congressional Budget Office said the proposal to give an independent panel the power to keep Medicare spending in check would only save about $2 billion over 10 years- a drop in the bucket compared to the bill's $1 trillion price tag.

Read it all at

House Progressives: We Can Not Tolerate Further Weakening Of The Public Option

By Brian Beutler - July 24, 2009

As if there weren't already too many factions of the Democratic party working at cross-purposes on health care, eight members of the House progressives are now saying, on behalf of the entire Congressional Progressive Caucus, that they won't tolerate any more weakening of the public option.

"We cannot tolerate further weakening of the public option," the letter reads.

We are also concerned about the latest discussion regarding the Independent Medicare Advisory Commission. We understand that no final decision has been made. However if discussions move forward to make IMAC a reality, we ask that you include us in discussion.

You can read the entire letter here. Some of the signatories are on record saying they won't vote for a bill unless it creates a public option--but now they're saying they won't vote for it if the one on the books right now is weakened any further.

About as soon as the letter was released, though, the status of the House health care bill became all-but unknowable, and it's not really clear how germane these concerns will be once the smoke has cleared. Still, it's a rare show of muscle from a group whose vote is often taken for granted, and that's sure to lift the spirits of beleaguered reformers after a hectic and disappointing week.

Source: TPMDC

Healthcare Exec Turned Whistleblower Says U.S. Needs Universal Coverage

I interviewed Wendell Potter, the former top public relations official for CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest insurers, about the kind of influence the healthcare industry wields over members of Congress, and the need for healthcare reform in America. While serving CIGNA, Potter was part of a group charged with discrediting Michael Moore’s film, Sicko, which he now calls an “honest film.” He is now a whistleblower for Big Health, an industry that he blames for leaving millions of Americans uninsured, under-insured, and misinformed.

I wanted to know what a former healthcare insider thought of Obama’s option, and what Potter thought of the dismissal of a universal healthcare plan. “All of us deserve access to care, so I think universal health care should be this country’s goal just like other developed countries,” says Potter, though he doesn’t see the solution coming from the federal government. Though he fully supports a public option, Potter believes every man, woman, and child should have access to healthcare, and the only way to make that happen is with universal healthcare. However, Potter is optimistic that America might follow the Canada model for coverage.

In Canada, it began at the provincial level. I think it could possibly happen in this country at the state level. There have been a number of states that have looked at implementing a single-payer system, including California. In fact, California lawmakers have twice voted for a single-payer system that Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed. And the state of Pennsylvania, where I live, is seriously considering a single-payer option, and it has a lot of Republican support. A lot of Republicans have signed on as sponsors. So it’s something that could develop at the state level, and more than likely will be the only way it can happen in the United States.

Canadian care is delivered privately by doctors and hospitals just like we have it delivered here in America. A single-payer system in America would behave the same way. Potter emphasizes, “you would have publicly funded, privately delivered care.” Not a government bureaucrat standing between a doctor and patient anywhere.

The main obstacle standing between Americans and universal healthcare is, of course, the private healthcare industry. The reason the “universal” option disappeared almost immediately from the conversation on the Hill is because Big Health flexed its muscle. Groups like “the health insurance industry, and like big PHRMA, and the pharmaceutical industry, and even the American Medical Association,” Potter says are “looking out for the best interest of their membership. In other words, the health insurance trade group is looking out for the best interest of insurance companies. They’re, ultimately, not looking out for the best interest of the individual residents and citizens of the United States.”

Read it all at The Public Record