Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Poll shows that Americans are willing to fund healthcare reform

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most Americans would pay higher taxes to fund healthcare reforms that provide the best quality of care, but only a minority expects Washington to deliver it, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

The telephone survey of 3,003 U.S. adults conducted by Thomson Reuters found 63 percent willing to pay for healthcare reform, though most also said they are happy with their own doctors, insurance plans and out-of-pocket costs.

However, only 35 percent of those surveyed said President Barack Obama's reform agenda and the debate in Congress will lead to better health service, while 41 percent said they would expect it to lead to lower costs.
The survey began September 8, the day before Obama sought to jump-start the congressional debate with a prime-time speech to lawmakers. Researchers wound up their polling on September 17. The findings have a 2 percent margin of error.
The survey showed that 76 percent of those polled believe Americans deserve the best healthcare. But only 43 percent said they actually receive it.

Readiness to pay for effective reform crossed party lines, with 78 percent of Democrats willing to accept higher taxes, as well as 64 percent of independents and 48 percent of Republicans.

Expectations split sharply with party affiliation. Seventy-two percent of Democrats but only 35 percent of independents and 12 percent of Republicans expected the reforms to drive down costs.

Sixty-six percent of Democrats said reform will bring better healthcare service, versus 29 percent of independents and 8 percent of Republicans.

And 77 percent said they were satisfied with their doctors, 68 percent with their health insurance coverage and 53 percent with out-of-pocket expenses.
Read it all at Reuters.

Are physicians fleeing Medicare?

In the debate on health care reform we hear that physicians are leaving the Medicare program because they cannot continue to accept the low fees paid by the government. Not true, according to this new GAO report. Physicians are more willing to serve Medicare beneficiaries and to accept Medicare fees as payments in full.
Read it all at PNHP's Official Blog

Don't Ruin American Healthcare!

Help us expose WellPoint, the largest insurer in America

Blue Cross. Blue Shield. That's WellPoint -- the largest insurer in America. They're suing an entire state for putting people over profits, and people need to know.

White House drafting fallback healthcare bill, report says

The Obama Administration is quietly drawing up its own healthcare plan behind the scenes as a fallback measure should healthcare legislation get tied up in Congress, according to a report Wednesday.

The report, printed in the registration-restricted Capitol Hill publication Roll Call, alleges that the administration may have a fully fledged healthcare bill in the wings, aimed at enticing moderate Democrats and even some Republicans to jump on board. It also posits that Obama may have had a reason for being so specific about a potential bill’s pricetag — no more than $900 billion — because his team had already drafted their own bill behind the scenes.
Read it all at Raw Story

AFL Says No Deal Between Trumka and Rahm on Public Option

This morning we reported that there was a meeting between Richard Trumka and Rahm Emanuel today. According to AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale, the meeting is over and Trumka is standing strong on the public option
Read it all at Campaign Silo

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ex-WellPoint exec helped write health-care bill | | The Indianapolis Star

Liz Fowler, a former public affairs executive for Indianapolis-based health insurance giant WellPoint, helped to craft health-care reform legislation being proposed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

It's a connection that is drawing criticism from some reform advocates who support the creation of a public health plan that would compete against commercial insurers such as WellPoint. Baucus' bill does not call for the creation of a public plan.

"This just sounds like another example of the revolving door between government and industry," said Dr. Robert Stone, a Bloomington physician who also is director of the advocacy group Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan. "We don't really know how much influence her job at WellPoint had."
Read it all in The Indianapolis Star

The Lie Machine

GOP operatives are running a secret campaign to kill health care reform, and it's based on Karl Rove's old playbook
"The insurance industry is up to the same dirty tricks, using the same devious PR practices it has used for many years, to kill reform," says Wendell Potter, who stepped down last year as chief of corporate communications for health insurance giant CIGNA. "I'm certain that people showing up at these town halls feel that they're there on their own — but they don't realize they're being incited, ultimately, by the insurance industry and the other special interests."

Behind the scenes, top Republicans — including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Minority Leader John Boehner and the chairman of the GOP's Senate steering committee, Jim DeMint — worked hand-in-glove with the organizers of the town brawls. Their goal was not only to block health care reform but to bankrupt President Obama's political capital before he could move on to other key items on his agenda, including curbing climate change and expanding labor rights. As DeMint told an August teleconference of nearly 20,000 town-hall activists, "If we can stop him on this, the administration won't be able to go on to cap and trade, card check and the other things they want to do."
Read it all at Rolling Stone

Baucus health bill would let private group write rules

Healthcare overhaul legislation moving through the Senate Finance Committee would put crucial rule-making authority in the hands of a private association of state insurance commissioners that consumer advocates fear is too closely tied to the industry.

The National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners currently writes model laws and regulations that individual states are free to accept or discard. Under the bill by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), it would craft a model rule governing "health insurance rating, issuance and marketing requirements" that would become "the new federal minimum standard without any further congressional action." States would be permitted to deviate from the standards only by appealing to the Department of Health and Human Services.

In effect, the bill would allow the group to write many of the new rules on issuing and marketing insurance to millions of uninsured Americans who would be required to purchase policies.

"The NAIC is clearly an organization that is dominated by the insurance industry," said California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a former state insurance commissioner.
Read it all at

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sen. Byron Dorgan Hopes To Blow Up Deal With Big Pharma

A Senate Democratic leader is hoping to blow up the deal reached between the White House, drug makers and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), by introducing an amendment on the floor to allow prescription drugs to be re-imported from Canada.

It's one of the simplest ways to reduce health care costs but was ruled out by the agreement, which limits Big Pharma's contribution to health care reform to $80 billion over ten years.

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, a member of Democratic leadership, isn't a party to that bargain. "Senator Dorgan intends to offer an amendment to the health reform bill and his expectation is that it will be one of the first amendments considered," his spokesman Justin Kitsch told HuffPost in an e-mail. "Prescription drug importation is an immediate way to put downward pressure on health care costs. It has bipartisan support, and has been endorsed by groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses and AARP."

U.S. patients pay far more than the rest of the world for prescription drugs. The Canadian government keeps prices down by using its purchasing power to negotiate for lower rates. Dorgan wants American consumers in on the deal.
A bill to allow re-importation -- S. 1232 - has 30 cosponsors, several Republicans among them, including Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, John Thune (S.D.) and David Vitter (La.).

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would result in $50 billion in direct savings over the next decade, with $10.6 billion of that being savings to the federal government.
Read it all at Huffington Post

The Truth About the Baucus Healthcare Bill

Michael Moore: The President Should Have Started With Single Payer

Here's another portion of Michael Moore's interview with Wolf Blitzer from Sept. 24, 2009. Michael is exactly right about one thing here. You're not seeing the passion on the left in support of the President because he started from a compromised position instead of starting with single payer and compromising from there if need be. He is also correct that if, not when, the President ever came out for single payer, you would see massive amounts of people coming out and supporting him. You're not going to see that passion on the left for a watered down giveaway to the insurance industry.

Moore is exactly right. Here is the transcript:

BLITZER: That's what President Obama said back in 2003. But now he's backed away from that as president of the United States and he seems to be backing away even from the so-called public option, which would allow the government -- a government-run health insurance company to compete with the private insurance companies. Is this what you wanted?

MOORE: Well, here's the -- here's the problem with President Obama on the health insurance proposal. He's a nice guy. You know, I mean, really, I believe he came into the White House with an olive branch to the people on the other side of the aisle. He believed in bipartisanship. I mean you've got to give the guy credit. He really -- he did not come in wanting to fight. He came in saying, you know, we're all Americans here and we need to fix this and we need to put aside this partisan stuff.

The other side didn't want to put it aside. The other side wanted to fight him tooth and nail. And -- and as part of his nice guy thing, he -- he backs a half measure, a public option.

BLITZER: But that might not even...


BLITZER: That might not even make the final bill that he signs.

MOORE: And that may not. Well, of course not, because any time you don't fight for the thing you want, any time that you start off compromising, you're never going to get what you want. He started off with a compromise position -- let the private insurance companies still sit at the table, have a public option. He should have started with what he truly believes in, what he believed in, what he said in 2003, a single payer, national health care system, like all other Western countries have. We should have the same thing.

I know he believes in that, but he was trying to reach out and say, you know what, I'm not just going to come in here and ram this, so I'm willing to work with you and listen to your concerns. They don't want to listen to him.

BLITZER: It sounds like you think he's naive..

MOORE: I don't think -- no, I'm -- no. No, I -- no, I'm saying that he's operating with those same Christian values that I spoke of. I think that he -- I think that he is a generous person with a very open heart and was willing to work with people who had no intention of ever working with him.

So now that he's realized that, now that he's got to go back to the drawing board and come back with something, because you see, Wolf, the reason he -- you know, he's out there alone. I mean nobody really has his back on this because the base is not energized by a half measure.

BLITZER: Why is that because there seems...

MOORE: If he's going to come out . . .

BLITZER: be so much rage on the right right now...

MOORE: Because -- because they believe in something.

BLITZER: ...and there doesn't seem to be the same kind of passion on the left. Why is that?

MOORE: No. Because -- because he hasn't proposed something that -- that liberals, Democrats, the left, whatever, progressive people, decent people who think when people get sick they should be able to see a doctor and not have to worry about paying for it -- you know, those kind of people. He just -- he just needs to -- when he comes forth with a single payer proposal, something that's going to provide true universal health care for all Americans, you are going to see millions of people -- millions of people -- backing him. It will look -- make those town hall meetings look like The Disney Channel.

BLITZER: But there doesn't seem to be any indication, Michael, he's about to do anything resembling that. As I said before, he seems to be backing away even from that compromise of a so-called public option.

MOORE: Right. OK, right, but he hasn't watched this show yet. So . . .

BLITZER: All right, so give me the message. If you could -- and he might be watching this interview right now. From your heart, tell the president of the United States what you want.

MOORE: Well, I would say, President Obama, first of all, thank you for taking on this job. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. So thank you for being willing to do that for us. We need you to really -- to really fight the fight for us -- us, the majority of the people who put you in there. We are the majority of this country.

Seventy-five percent of this country wants universal health care for all Americans. We're sick and tired of having the middle man -- the private insurance company -- get between us and our doctors, us and the hospital, us and the pharmaceuticals that people need. You've got to really come forth now with a program that guarantees this for all Americans. And if you do that, you're going to find tens of millions of us out there behind you, supporting you every step of the way.
Source: Video Cafe

Mobilization for Health Care for All

On September 29th in New York City, the Mobilization for Health Care for All is launching a national campaign of "Patients Not Profit" sit-ins at insurance company offices to demand an end to a system that profits by denying people care. We want the real "public option": Medicare for All, a single payer plan that cuts out the profit and puts patients first.

Insurance companies are the real death panels in America. They make billions in profit and millions for their CEOs while millions of Americans have no health insurance and over 45,000 die every year because they can't get the care they need. That's more than 120 people every day. These insurance companies deny care to their members and the American people for profit.

America deserves better, and that's why we voted for change. But the insurance companies are spending millions to confuse and scare the public to keep us from ending their grip on our health and our money. With teabagger town hall protestors and the right-wing noise machine on their side, they're winning. We can't let that happen. It's time to take the fight to the real villain in the health care debate.

When the civil rights movement faced a similar challenge in the struggle to end segregation, nonviolent civil disobedience moved the nation and made reform possible. Just like the lunch counter sit-ins did for the civil rights movement, we have to make it impossible for the media and our country to ignore how outrageous the status quo of private insurance is for the American people.

It only takes a small group of people to do a sit-in in your community, but our actions can inspire every American who has been abused by the insurance companies and believes it's time for real reform to fight for it. This campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience will continue until the insurance companies no longer stand between the American people and the health care that is our right.

Already, doctors, nurses, patients, and people just like you are signing up to be one of the 100 ordinary but courageous people who will launch this nonviolent battle to end private insurance abuse and win health care for all. Join us! We can't wait any longer - every day more people die because of the insurance company death panels. Sign Up!

Watch the video at YouTube. | Follow the campaign on Twitter

Are Industry Lobbyists Raising Our Health Care Premiums?

While the Senate Finance Committee is slogging through more than 530 amendments to Sen. Max Baucus’ flawed health care reform bill, more than 2,700 lobbyists are working overtime to protect the private health insurance industry and other health care corporations.
Yesterday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called for an investigation into the connection between the millions of dollars that health insurance companies are spending on lobbying expenses to kill health care reform and soaring premiums. Today, Bloomberg News reports that more than half of the health care industry’s hired-gun lobbyists are former congressional staffers, White House employees or government agency veterans—55 are former members of Congress.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va..) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) each plan to offer a public option amendment next week. Says Rockefeller:
A health-care plan without a public option is a much weaker health plan because insurance companies continue to rule. [A public option] is going to force other companies to bring down costs over time.

All 10 committee Republicans will oppose the amendments and it may not win enough of the 13 Democratic votes. If it fails in committee, Schumer says he will take the fight to the floor when the full Senate votes.
Read it all here.

Obama addresses black caucus on health care

From Talking Points Memo:

President Barack Obama on Saturday resumed his push to overhaul the health care system, telling a Congressional Black Caucus conference that there comes a time when 'the cup of endurance runs over.'

'We have been waiting for health reform since the days of Teddy Roosevelt. We've been waiting since the days of Harry Truman,' he said in remarks at the caucus foundation's annual dinner. 'We've been waiting since Johnson and Nixon and Clinton.'

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How Would Healthcare Reform Affect You?

Consumers Union has put together a breakdown of the health care bills in Congress to let you see how they would affect you, based on your age and what kind of insurance you currently have (if any). Check it out here.


This was created in 2001 and is still more than relevant today.

Thousands Of Uninsured Texans Flock To Dr Oz Free Clinic

Friday, September 25, 2009

PBS Health Care Reform Special Report

As Congress weighs legislation to provide universal health care in the U.S., correspondents from NOW on PBS, Tavis Smiley, Nightly Business Report, and SoCal connected provide analysis, discussion, and insight. Watch the video here.

New Progressive Memo Sent Around Hill Warns Against Finance Committee Health Care

In a late-game push to pass the public option, progressive groups are trying to convince Democrats that it would be political suicide to pass a bill requiring people to buy insurance coverage but not giving them the choice of a government-run plan.

A memo making the rounds on Capitol Hill makes the case that the current construct of the Senate Finance Committee's legislation - which includes an individual mandate but no public option - will be resoundingly opposed by the American public.

Commissioned by the progressive-leaning Health Care for America Now - and obtained by the Huffington Post - the piece is based on three new polls conducted by reputable polling firms in swing House districts and the state of Maine.

"Nationally," the memo reads, "voters oppose a mandate to purchase private insurance by 64% to 34% but support a mandate with a choice of private or public insurance by 60% to 37%... Each [survey] found that likely 2010 voters oppose 'requiring everyone to buy and be covered by a private health insurance plan' but support 'requiring everyone to buy and be covered by a health insurance plan with a choice between a public option and private insurance plans.'"

In a not-so-subtle message to Senate Democrats, the memo concludes with a warning shot at the Senate Finance Committee's legislation - which seems unlikely to include a public plan.

"All of the health care reform proposals that have passed Congressional committees to date, including three House committees and the Senate HELP Committee, include an individual mandate and the choice of private or public health insurance," the HCAN memo reads. "The Chairman's mark introduced into the Senate Finance Committee includes the individual mandate without the choice of a public health insurance option."
Source: Huffington Post

Public Option Popular in Blue Dog Districts

As data piles up that the the public option is good fiscal policy, and the public option still polls well above 60 percent nationally, Blue Dogs have a lot to mull over. Here's more: it's popular in their districts, and their reelection prospects without it are dimmed.
Read it all at Daily Kos

CBO: A Strong Public Plan Saves Lots of Money

Congress Daily reports new CBO estimates show a strong public option would save an additional $85 billion compared to a weak one.
Those who oppose the public option -- Republicans and a diminishing group of Democrats -- really are on the wrong side of this debate. The public option isn't about creating an expensive new government program that would give Ronald Reagan nightmares -- it's about making health care insurance cheaper and better for more people.

The public option is a simple idea, it's a good idea, and it's popular. There is no reason it shouldn't happen.
Read it all at Daily Kos

Earth's Climate Outside 'Safe Operating Space' : Discovery News

Sept. 24, 2009 -- We are on the verge of pushing nature into a state of instability like nothing humanity has seen before, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

The study, which attempted for the first time to come up with real numbers for a set of conditions beyond which Earth may not be able to recover, found that we may have already crossed several tipping points.
Read it all at Discovery News

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blue Dog Opposition To Public Option Fades In Whip Count

Blocking a public health insurance option is a relatively low priority for conservative Blue Dog Democrats, according to an ongoing survey of its members. The fading House opposition could clear the way for the public option to move through the chamber.

The Blue Dogs have been surveying their membership over the last several days; coalition co-chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) has been collecting the responses. She listed the four top priorities that have emerged: Keeping the cost under $900 billion, not moving at a faster pace than the Senate, getting a 20-year cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office and addressing regional disparities in Medicare reimbursement rates.
Read it all.

High Noon for the Public Option in the Senate Tomorrow - The Note

I am told that Senators Chuck Schumer and Jay Rockefeller will force a roll-call vote tomorrow morning in the Senate Finance Committee on two amendments that would create a government-run insurance program – a top priority for liberal Democrats that was left out of the bill drafted by Finance Chairman Max Baucus.

Read it all in The Note

Rockefeller: "The Insurance Industry... Is Running Certain People In This Markup"

Reacting to an amendment proposed by Sen. Jon Cornyn (R-Texas) during the Senate Finance Committee's markup of health care reform legislation on Thursday, committee member Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) called his colleague a pawn of the health insurance industry.

"This is a very, very important amendment and it's a very, very bad amendment," said Rockefeller. "If there's anything which is clear, it's that the insurance industry is not running this markup, but is running certain people in this markup."
Source with Video

SEIU Refutes Report, Won't Abandon Public Option

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Burger stressed that the SEIU remained absolutely committed to fighting to keep the public option in the bill. "We believe very strongly that the public option is the key way to control cost," she said. "It is the way to hold insurance companies accountable and to keep them competitive. And unless we have the public option, I have not seen another mechanism yet to do that." She said the union looked at the idea of insurance co-ops and "we decided there is no way that this was going to work. And we fought against it."
Read more.

Pelosi shoots down public option 'trigger'

Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected the idea of a "trigger" for a public option. That means that the government-run healthcare plan would be a fallback option, enacted only if other reforms didn’t make healthcare more accessible.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who is being courted by the Obama administration as their best hope for getting a Republican to sign on to President Barack Obama's healthcare initiative, supports a trigger. But Pelosi does not.

"I don't even want to talk about a trigger," Pelosi said at her weekly press conference. She said the "attitude" of her fellow Democrats is that "a trigger is an excuse for not doing anything."

Read it all at

Senator Rockefeller Finds A Huge Loophole In The Baucus Bill

Senator Rockefeller pointed out that there was a gigantic loophole in the Baucus bill that would leave half of Americans subject to potential discrimination by private insurers. Apparently due to existing federal law, large companies can call themselves "self-insurers" even though they provide coverage through a major insurance company. These sort of self-insurance plans are mostly exempt from state regulations and are allowed to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Read it all at Campaign

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Conservatives Say They Will Sue to Stop HealthCare Reform

From Washington Whispers

While they still believe Congress will not succeed in passing a healthcare reform package shaped the way the president and Democrats want, opponents of government-run healthcare are laying the groundwork for lawsuits to stall and eventually kill any Democratic legislative victory—just in case. A broad group of conservatives has begun to explore how to file such lawsuits, who would file them, and what components of the legislation would be challenged, if not all of it. Because the effort is in the initial stages, none of those involved would allow Washington Whispers to identify them.

The first task, the conservatives say, is to find people or groups "with standing" to file the suits. They don't expect, however, that identifying groups or employers will be difficult if the mandate to require people to buy health insurance ends up in the final bill. Most of the conservatives involved say that the mandate amounts to a tax and that it will be fought on constitutional grounds. Also, the lawsuits won't be filed just in federal court in Washington. Sources say the suits will also be filed in most states and in as many courts as possible to avoid putting all eggs "in just a few baskets."

God, I hate these people.

GOP's Delay & Kill Health Care Strategy

Rate it up at YouTube

Doctor Grumpy in the House: Annie's Song

A doctor goes on a righteous rant about the pain of dealing with insurance companies to get his patient's the care they need. At the end, he provides a transcript of a call from his nurse to one company. Both hysterically funny and sad. You have to read it.

Health care around the globe

A look at how other developed countries provide and pay for health care compared with the U.S. system, based on the most recent information available:
Well done and worth the time to review. Read it all at

Pelosi backs away from deal with Blue Dogs

Speaker Pelosi is backing away from a deal she cut with centrists to advance health reform, said a source familiar with talks.

Pelosi’s decision to move away from the agreement that was made with a group of Blue Dogs to get the bill out of committee would steer the healthcare legislation back to the left as she prepares for a floor vote.

Pelosi is planning to include a government-run public option in the House version of the healthcare bill. She wants to model it on Medicare, with providers getting reimbursed on a scale pegged to Medicare rates.

Read it all at

Reid gives GOP direct warning on healthcare

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) gave Republicans his most direct warning to date that he is prepared to use a procedural maneuver to pass healthcare reform with a simple majority.

Reid told Republicans that he would prefer to pass healthcare reform under regular order but warned that he would not hesitate to use budget reconciliation if the legislation stalled in committee. The Senate Finance Committee began marking up a sprawling healthcare reform bill on Tuesday morning.

Read it all at

Baucus Accepts Numerous Republican And Democratic Amendments, Brings Cost Of Bill To $900 Billion

The Wonk Room has done a good job explaining many of the more important modifications made to the Baucus bill.

Sen Max Baucus (D-MT) has just released a Chairman’s amendment to his mark. The new amendment enhances the bill’s affordability measures and increases the threshold on so-called Cadillac health care plans for ‘high-risk’ Americans. The modified amendment also preserves a subsidy to certain Medicare Advantage plans.

Read more at the Wonk Room

Firedog Lake list improvements to the Baucus bill some amendments created:
Better Ombudsman Office Baucus decided to significantly strengthen the new ombudsman office by basically adopting the Bingaman amendment I discussed the other day. Originally the consumer would need to fully exhaust all internal appeals before being able to seek help from the ombudsman's office. Now, if the appeals last longer than three months, they can get professional help from the ombudsman's office. Access to the ombudsman's services still needs to be improved, but this is a step in the right directions.

No Multiple Exchanges The bill would no longer allow states to create multiple exchanges. Originally, states could allow “other entities” to operate multiple exchanges in the state. This was a bad provision that would not only dilute the bargaining power of individuals using the exchanges, but could easily have become a way for insurance companies to game the system.

National Plans Restricted Baucus's bill would have allowed insurance companies to sell “national plans,” which would be exempt from state benefit mandates. This has been a long time goal of the health insurance industry, and would have effectively gutted most states' insurance regulations. Fortunately, this provision has be changed to allow individual states to opt-out of allowing national plans to be sold in their state. States with very good benefit mandates can now at least prevent their state from being flooded with lower quality “national plans.”

Democrats Spar Among Themselves Over PhRMA Deal - Prescriptions Blog

The first big fight over the Senate Finance Committee’s health care legislation erupted Tuesday night: a rollicking brawl over a deal that the Obama administration cut with the pharmaceutical industry to achieve $80 billion in savings on drug costs over 10 years, money that would help pay for the legislation.

Top House Democrats have hated the deal from the get-go. Senate Democrats are now bitterly divided. And Senate Republicans are eagerly jumping into the fray to needle the Democrats over their divisions.
The fight over the deal with PhRMA actually stems from the legislative battle over the Medicare prescription drug legislation that Republicans successfully pushed through Congress in 2003. As a result of that legislation, about 6 million elderly Americans who had been receiving drug benefits under Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, were instead shifted into the new Medicare drug program, resulting in the government paying far high prices for drugs.

Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, and now the powerful chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has long complained about that switch. And the House health care legislation, of which Mr. Waxman is a main author, seeks to reverse the arrangement and to recoup the extra money that the government has been spending by restoring the old Medicaid drug discounts or “rebates” as they are known.

That would save the government at least $86 billion over 10 years, but would potentially cost the drug industry far more.
The White House has said that its deal with PhRMA would help narrow a gap in Medicare coverage of prescription drugs that is know as the doughnut hole, which forces people to pay some of their drug costs after a certain level. But there are also questions about the extent to which the drug industry also benefits, because the increased drug coverage for seniors means that the government will pay for more medication on their behalf, particularly brand-name drugs. In some cases, seniors now stop taking medication or switch to generics when they reach the doughnut hole.

Since the White House reached its deal with PhRMA in June there has been some disagreement between the industry and the administration over the precise terms of the arrangement. PhRMA has insisted that the White House agreed not to seek any additional concessions from drug manufacturers and to block Mr. Waxman’s plan in the House legislation. And the industry said that its support of the health overhaul was specifically aimed at Mr. Baucus’s proposal.

Mr. Baucus had previously announced that the first votes on amendments would not take place until Wednesday, so a final outcome of the fight was postponed.

Read it all at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Republican Leaders Rush to Defend Insurer Humana from "Gag Order" | TPMMuckraker

...the Obama administration is investigating the activities of health insurance giant Humana--a participant in Medicare Advantage that's been telling its aging consumers that the government plans to slash benefits as it reforms the U.S. health care system, and urging them to tell Congress not to touch the program.

Medicare Advantage plans are private health care plans that seniors can buy into with federal assistance in lieu of participating in traditional Medicare, and under terms the government erected, those insurers face strict limits on how they communicate to beneficiaries. The regulations exist to protect seniors from acting under the pressures of their insurers, who control their benefits. In response to a request from Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has demanded the lobbying effort cease, and is investigating the company to determine whether it violated those rules.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Humana's home state of Kentucky, and has received tens of thousands of dollars from the company over the years, called the CMS actions a "gag order"--a characterization that has been echoed by House Minority Leader John Boehner and Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI)--ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee--who fired off an angry letter to CMS acting administrator Charlene Frizzera.

Read more at TPMMuckraker

Rachel Maddow Exposes 'Blue Dog' Democrat Mike Ross

Martin Luther King and Health Care Reform

Dr. King once said, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."

In a 2006 op-ed in the Charlotte News & Observer, Richard Payne wrote, "Is there any doubt that King would have been on the forefront of arguments for payment of a living wage to the working poor, and that he would have advocated for universal health care?"

What Does Reform Do to Your Member of Congress’s Plan?

It’s one of the weirder pieces of snark or vitriol you'll here among those skeptical of the health reform plans moving through Congress. “If this health reform plan is so good,” someone will snarl, “then why do members of Congress make an exception for themselves so they don’t have to participate?” The question is mystifying. For one thing, it’s drop-dead wrong -- the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan would be affected by health care reform the same way any big employers’ benefits plan would. No exceptions for your Senator. For another, the question misses the larger point -- we’re talking about a reform plan that would actually make your insurance options look more like what your Senator already enjoys.

[Kaiser &] NPR has a good Q&A on how the FEHBP works, but here are the essentials. Every federal employee, be they a postal worker, a paper-pusher, a Cabinet Secretary, or a Senator, is given a menu of insurance plans based on where they live. Some of the plans are national, some of them are regional, but all of them are transparent -- you can compare like to like on coverage. Every plan meets a minimum level of coverage, including primary care and prevention, and no one can be turned away on the basis of pre-existing conditions. The federal government, as your employer, picks up a big chunk of the premiums -- 72% on average, which is equivalent to the average for all private employers who supply benefits. As an extra bonus, most of the standard plans have a cap on your out-of-pocket spending on medical care in terms of co-pays, deductibles, etc.: $5,000 per family for in-network providers and $7,000 overall. The coverage is pretty great, and the costs are relatively low -- the kind of rates you get when you happen to have 8 million members in your plan.
If this plan sounds familiar, it should. It’s the same basic principles as the Health Exchange. Array of private insurance options at affordable rates? Check. Regulations against exclusion on the basis of pre-existing conditions or age? Check. Coverage for primary care and prevention? Check. A cap on out-of-pocket expenses? Check. Putting the choice in your hands to choose what’s best for you and your family? Double check. The idea of giving uninsured Americans the option of enrolling in the FEHBP itself or an FEHBP-like set of options (the Health Exchange) has been at the heart of Democrats’ health care reform proposals since John Kerry ran for president. It’s the controlling idea for the plans offered by Wyden, Edwards, Clinton, Obama and more. Now the Exchange isn’t an identical twin to the FEHBP -- the FEHBP has better cost-sharing, while the Exchange has the public option, which could significantly reduce costs for all the plans in the Echange through competition -- but it’s at least fraternal.

Read it all at

U.S. health insurers say they face gag order after being caught sending out anti-health care reform propaganda

U.S. health insurers whine about being "gagged" after being told not to violate marketing rules or improperly use protected Medicare mailing lists.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled as well as privately run Medicare alternatives, said on Monday it was investigating a letter Humana Inc (HUM.N) sent enrollees about efforts to overhaul the nation's healthcare system.

Humana's letter, sent in an envelope citing important plan information, told customers the Democrats' bills could hurt "millions of seniors and disabled individuals who could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable," according to CMS.

The agency also warned other insurers against sending potentially misleading health reform mailings to customers.

REad it all at Reuters

Got bunions? No insurance for you

Insurance company documents obtained and made public by Consumer Watchdog indicate how far some insurers will go to limit individual coverage to only the healthiest people (and those with the safest jobs). A hangnail? You'll get coverage. Toenail fungus? Perhaps not.
You could be denied coverage if you:
  • Work as a police officer, firefighter, stunt person, test pilot, logger, rodeo performer, or migrant, utility or circus worker (the big tent could come falling down, or maybe an elephant could get loose).
  • Are pregnant, are an expectant father or are going to adopt.
  • Take common prescription drugs like Allegra, Advair and Lamisil, the toenail fungus drug.
  • Have chronic tonsillitis, varicose veins, acne (Accutane-free for less than six or 12 momths), hemorrhoids, bunions, asthma, arthritis, ADD or silicone breast implants.
  • Have gotten therapy or counseling within the last six months, or "currently experiencing/experienced within the last 12 months symptoms for which a physician has not been consulted."

Read it all at MSN Money

Who's Representing The Uninsured On Capitol Hill?

As the health care debate on Capitol Hill reaches its peak, many of the strongest opponents of an overhaul represent districts with the largest percentage of people who don't have health insurance, an NPR analysis shows.

Of the 100 congressional districts with the highest percentage rates of uninsured people, 53 are represented either by Republican lawmakers who are fighting the overhaul, or by conservative Blue Dog Democrats who have slowed down and diluted the overhaul proposals.

One leader of the Blue Dog effort is Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, the coalition's chief health care negotiator. His 4th Congressional District covers southern Arkansas, a rural area with a high poverty rate. In his district, more than one out of five residents under age 65 lacks health insurance. That's 30 percent higher than the national average.
"Many of those individuals who would need a public health care option are those who are not likely to be able to take two hours out of their day to go to a public event like that town hall," says Kevin Motl, a history professor at Ouachita Baptist University who attended the meeting. "They were too busy earning hourly wages and trying to keep roofs above their children's heads. Those voices are not going to be present in that discourse."
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that 17 percent of Americans under age 65 now go without health insurance. It's a basic truth of political analysis that low-income residents — that is, those most likely to be uninsured — are less likely than middle-class people to attend town meetings and less likely to vote. To state the obvious, the poor are also less likely to make campaign contributions.

Read it all or listen at NPR

Protect Insurance Companies

Lies about Canadian health care in US debate refuted … again - Counterweights

Canadian Health Care, Even With Queues, Bests U.S.

Opponents of overhauling U.S. health care argue that Canada shows what happens when government gets involved in medicine, saying the country is plagued by inferior treatment, rationing and months-long queues.

The allegations are wrong by almost every measure, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and other independent studies published during the past five years. While delays do occur for non-emergency procedures, data indicate that Canada’s system of universal health coverage provides care as good as in the U.S., at a cost 47 percent less for each person.

“There is an image of Canadians flooding across the border to get care,” said Donald Berwick, a Harvard University health- policy specialist and pediatrician who heads the Boston-based nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “That’s just not the case. The public in Canada is far more satisfied with the system than they are in the U.S. and health care is at least as good, with much more contained costs.”

Canadians live two to three years longer than Americans and are as likely to survive heart attacks, childhood leukemia, and breast and cervical cancer, according to the OECD, the Paris- based coalition of 30 industrialized nations.

Deaths considered preventable through health care are less frequent in Canada than in the U.S., according to a January 2008 report in the journal Health Affairs. In the study by British researchers, Canada placed sixth among 19 countries surveyed, with 77 deaths for every 100,000 people. That compared with the last-place finish of the U.S., with 110 deaths.

Read it all at

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kucinich Questions Insurance Execs. on Denied Claims

Representative Dennis Kucinich ask executives from six of the largest health insurance companies if denial of insurance claims can be fatal. Watch them answer:

The Obama Plan in 4 Minutes

Rate it up at YouTube

Obama's media blitz: The public option absolutely is not dead

The public option has not been taken off the table in the nation's healthcare debate, President Barack Obama flatly declared Sunday.

Obama, appearing on the Spanish-language Univision's "Al Punto" program on Sunday, rejected the idea that he had abandoned the public (or "government-run") option for which he'd expressed much previous support.

"I absolutely do not believe that it's dead," Obama told Univision. "I think that it's something that we can still include as part of a comprehensive reform effort."

Read it all on The Hill's Blog

Medicare for all

So why has it not occurred to the champions of reform that instead of telling people that the public option is "like Medicare," we might simply let the public option be Medicare? That would reduce all the complexities to one clear-cut public-option solution: Amend Medicare so that it will be available to everyone regardless of age.

Since 1951, the self-employed have been able to buy into Social Security; currently about 9 million of them are in the system. Why not remove the age restriction on Medicare and let everybody buy in who wants to buy in? Medicare provides a very elusive target for right-wing vilification or for those who seek to make reform look so complex that we must wait an additional 20 years to change the system. It is a time-tested program that people know and trust. It has an exemplary track record for low-overhead administration. Medicare is already the most successful cost-control program we have, and it can be made more effective still. (There are estimates that fraud in the system costs over $60 billion a year -- a serious but fixable flaw that accounts for enough money to keep the system solvent.)

Above all, it's here. Its administrative procedures and personnel are in place. Unlike health co-ops -- which remain a mystery to most of us -- Medicare needs only to be expanded, which has to be cheaper than starting from square one.

Read it all at

Health reform's 'gang of 6' reaps political cash

The bipartisan "gang of six" senators who helped craft the health care reform bill going before a key Senate committee Tuesday represent less than 3 percent of the U.S. population - but they hold a lot of power at a crucial policy-shaping moment in Congress.
Three Republican and three Democratic senators in the group, all of them members of the Senate Finance Committee, received an average of $74,600 from health industry lobbyists, according to The Chronicle's analysis of records through June.

That is about 25 percent more than the average of $59,632 in such donations that the gang's other Senate colleagues raked in from lobbyists for the pharmaceutical, hospital, insurance and nursing home industries, according to the analysis, which was based on records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit watchdog group.

"Money buys access," said Henry Brady, a professor of public policy and dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.
Six Senate Finance Committee members who negotiated a health reform plan that goes before the committee Tuesday represent about 3 percent of the nation's population but received 25 percent more in campaign funds from health care interests than their Senate colleagues through June 30.
  • Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa - $223,600
  • Max Baucus, D-Mont. - $141,000
  • Kent Conrad, D-N.D. - $51,000
  • Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. - $18,000
  • Olympia Snowe, R-Maine - $9,000
  • Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. - $5,000

Read it all at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ranking: U.S. 1st in health care spending, 37th in health

From the academic side, here's the most common diagnosis for the high price of U.S. health care: a highly complex and fragmented payment system that weakens the demand for health care and has high administrative costs that don't improve anyone's health.
No. 37 is where the United States' health status was ranked by the World Health Organization. Here's how U.S. health care stacks up in other ways (in most recent statistics available):
  • No. 1 in total health costs as a percentage of gross domestic product.
  • $878 per person spent on pharmaceuticals -- the most among the world's 30 largest economies.
  • 2.4 practicing physicians per 1,000 people in the United States. Countries with fewer physicians per 1,000 are Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, South Korea and Turkey.
  • 3.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people -- the fewest beds per 1,000 among the world's 30 largest economies, except for Mexico, where there are 1.7 beds per 1,000.
  • 34.3 percent of Americans are obese (with a body mass index of 30 or higher), the most of any developed country.
  • 25.9 magnetic resonance imaging units per million people makes the United States No. 1 among the world's largest economies. The United Kingdom, in contrast, has about one third the number of the U.S.
  • 84.5 coronary bypasses per 100,000 people makes the U.S. the second most bypassed among developed nations, topped by Germany which has 131.8 bypasses for every 100,000 people.
  • 15.4 percent of the U.S. population are daily smokers -- the second smallest percentage among the world's 30 largest economies (only the Swedes smoke less).

Read it all ~~ OECD Health Data 2009

Analysis: You Have No Idea What Health Costs

The most important health-care document released this week was not Sen. Max Baucus's Healthy Future Act. It was the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2009 Employer Benefits Survey.

While the proposal by Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, outlines a direction for policy, the survey, which polls employers about health benefits to assemble a detailed look at the actual cost of health care, fits it squarely in our pocketbooks.

The truth is we all pay, and much more than we recognize, for health care.

For many, it's among the largest investments we'll make, on par, even, with the money we spend on a house or tuck away for retirement. But while it's easy to track our stock portfolios as they tank along with the market, our outlay for health care is less obvious. Employers pay some, and so do individuals, and taxpayers. And some even hides behind the deficit. As such, few of us see the full picture. But to make sense of the proposals for reform, getting a grasp of the cost is critical.

The average health-care coverage for the average family now costs $13,375, according to Kaiser. Over the past decade, premiums have increased by 138 percent. And if the trend continues, by 2019 the average family plan will cost $30,083.

Three years of slightly above-average health insurance will cost a solid six figures.

Those are numbers to marvel at. Those are numbers to fear. But they are not the numbers that loom in the minds of most Americans. And therein lies the problem for health-care reform.

About 160 million Americans receive health coverage through their employers. In general, the employer picks up 73 percent of the tab. This seems like a good deal. In reality, that money comes out of wages.

As Ezekiel Emanuel, who advises Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag on health-care policy, has pointed out, health-care premiums have risen by 300 percent over the past 30 years (and that's after adjusting for inflation). Corporate profit per employee has soared by 200 percent. Hourly earnings for workers, adjusted for inflation, have fallen. The wage increases have been consumed by health-care costs.

Another 80 million Americans are on public plans, mainly Medicare and Medicaid. Those costs are paid by taxpayers. And about 46 million Americans are uninsured. The costs for their care are shifted to the insured: This raises premiums for the average family by $1,100 each year, according to an analysis by Ben Furnas and Peter Harbage of the Center for American Progress.

Imagine if people who touched a hot stove felt only a small fraction of the pain from the burn. That's pretty much what's happening in our health-care system. It hurts enough that we would prefer it to stop, but the urgency is lost.

Read it all at the Washington Post.

MacArthur at Incheon:  How to Win Health Care Reform

A doctor presents some very interesting ideas in the article generating a great comment discussion - well worth the time to read and consider:

The point of this history lesson, of course, is to recall that if you are bogged down in a stalemate, a surprise counterattack can be an overwhelmingly successful tactic to gain the upper hand. The forces of the status quo continue their fight to prevent real health care reform from taking place, and we pro-reform advocates remain hunkered down trying to defend the public option -- our last tattered shred of hope for change -- from annihilation. This seems like a good time to see where the opportunities are to counterattack: to throw our foes off balance, hit them where they're lightly defended and cut off the main thrust of their attack.

To do this, I suggest that we focus not so much on the public option: that defensive line where little movement is occurring. As it is, health insurers have no disincentive to keep stalling and chipping away, because doing so gives them nothing but upside. The way to shut them down is to show that stalling the process could hurt them more than it helps them. We should attack other important strategic targets which have already been neutralized by the forces of the corporatist status quo: health insurance reform, and cost reductions. The following are some specific ideas about how to counterattack.
The four basic premises are:
  1. Remove health insurers' tort immunity.
  2. Cancel the insurers' anti-trust exemption.
  3. Make health insurers spend our premiums on health care.
  4. Give all government sponsored health insurance programs access to the VA drug formulary.
Pleasse take the time to read it all at Daily Kos.

Book Review:T. R. Reid’s "The Healing of America"

For people like me, who see universal coverage as a moral and economic imperative, and who think nuance, detail, and pragmatics matter, T. R. Reid’s "the Healing of America" is required reading, imo. In analyzing the different health systems of the world, Reid digs below the rhetoric and into the substance. In the process, he obliterates common myths held by Americans about other delivery systems, while also showing that all models carry unique problems. The big takeaway is that the U.S. should learn from this reality and adopt an approach that’s consistent with our needs.
So it’s clear there’s a lot of variety out there, and the blanket "socialist" label neglects the fact that typical systems include a mix of public and private entities. Further, we shouldn’t arrogantly assume that nothing works in other countries; the truth is that other industrialized systems cover everybody for much less than we spend, and their populations are healthier overall as a result. That doesn’t mean the U.S. should emulate entire frameworks -- it’s more that we should learn about what works, and make smart decisions here with that knowledge.

For instance, we spend 30 for 40% on healthcare administration, while France and Taiwan keep it near 5%, largely through standardized electronic record-keeping and "smart" cards that centralize patient history. Why wouldn't we want to mimic that (assuming privacy is protected)? Great Britain religiously focuses on prevention to keep costs down. Why shouldn't we create a public option based on the "medical home" model to do the same (rewarding quality, not quantity and churn)? If it works -- there are already smaller-scale success stories in the U.S. -- Medicare will also adopt it, generating massive cost savings. And private insurers might follow suit as well.

Read the entire review here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Top Five Reasons the Baucus Bill Is Really, Really Bad

RJ Eskow presents the top 5 reasons that the Baucus bill sucks. We mean really sucks.

1-0the bill allows insurers to charge up to five times as much for some enrollees as for others, based on age.

2- the mandate to buy insurance remains in place, but does nothing to reduce costs because of the ability to charge prohibitive higher prices to older people.

3- the provision to tax so-called Cadillac plans will encourage employers to discriminate against costlier older employees.

4- no public option alternative to private insurance.

5- "[Purchasing councils for co-ops] shall be prohibited from setting payment rates for health care facilities and providers." So small, state based co-ops are expressly prohibited from pooling their purchasing power to force lower prices.

Read it all

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom Discusses Health Care Reform and a Public Option

Senator Rockefeller Rips 'Gang of Six' on PBS's Charlie Rose

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) appeared on the Charlie Rose Show to discuss Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-MT) bill. He said he will introduce at least 17 amendments to the Baucus proposal. "This is my chance, having not be a part of the Gang of Six," to improve the legislation.

Kent Conrad proudly tells us why the Senate Finance Committee Bill is a Republican Bill

Republicans pretty much wrote the Senate Finance Committee bill they now won't support.

Lots more info at Crooks and Liars

As dday says:
Republicans don't like it because... it's a health care bill. Democrats don't like it because... it's a bad health care bill designed to kowtow to Republicans who won't even vote for it. Health care advocacy groups don't like it because it "would give a government-subsidized monopoly to the private insurance industry to sell their most profitable plans - high-deductible insurance - without having to face competition from a public health insurer." A good reason not to like it! And unions don't like it because there's no employer mandate and it would "tax health plans."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Conyers, Leahy Introduce Bill To End Anti-Trust Exemption For Health Insurers

John Conyers and some allies on the House Judiciary Committee have come up with a fabulous way to get the insurance industry in line - by threatening to remove their anti-trust exemption.

Many people don't know that the insurance industry, under the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, has a broad anti-trust exemption that facilitates regional monopolies. The Act allows states to regulate the insurance business instead of the federal government, but also allows that, as long as the state regulates the industry, federal anti-trust laws would not apply.
The point is that the concentration of the health insurance market among regional monopolies leads to higher costs for consumers, almost by definition. What the legislation by Conyers (D-MI), Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) would do is end that anti-trust exemption for health insurers, allowing for enforcement in all of these highly concentrated markets. The Senate has companion legislation from Sen. Patrick Leahy

Read it all at Daily Kos

Pelosi: Public Option Will Be in Bill That Passes the House

"I fully support the public option. The public option will be in the bill that passes the House" ~Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Linda Bird Johnson Robb: A Special Message on Health Insurance Reform

Linda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, [LBJ} joins with with the Alliance for Retired Americans to reassure U.S. seniors that health reform is in their interest, and in the interest of a healthy sustainable Medicare program. Recalling the achievements of Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson -- "Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and more" she says "Now it's time to complete the unfinished business of our generation."

Harvard study finds nearly 45,000 excess deaths annually linked to lack of health coverage

Lack of health insurance now more lethal

One American now dies every 12 minutes from lack of health insurance.

Sept. 17, 2009

Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H.
David Himmelstein, M.D.
Andrew P. Wilper, M.D., M.P.H.
Mark Almberg, Physicians for a National Health Program, (312) 782-6006,
David Lerner or Karmen Ross, Riptide Communications, (212) 260-5000

A study published online today estimates nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance. That figure is about two and a half times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2002.

The new study, "Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults," appears in today’s online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

The Harvard-based researchers found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993.

Lead author Dr. Andrew Wilper, who worked at Harvard Medical School when the study was done and who now teaches at the University of Washington Medical School, said, "The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health. We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes and heart disease — but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications."

The study, which analyzed data from national surveys carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), assessed death rates after taking education, income and many other factors including smoking, drinking and obesity into account. It estimated that lack of health insurance causes 44,789 excess deaths annually.

Previous estimates from the IOM and others had put that figure near 18,000. The methods used in the current study were similar to those employed by the IOM in 2002, which in turn were based on a pioneering 1993 study of health insurance and mortality.

Deaths associated with lack of health insurance now exceed those caused by many common killers such as kidney disease.

An increase in the number of uninsured and an eroding medical safety net for the disadvantaged likely explain the substantial increase in the number of deaths associated with lack of insurance. The uninsured are more likely to go without needed care.

Another factor contributing to the widening gap in the risk of death between those who have insurance and those who don’t is the improved quality of care for those who can get it.

The research, carried out at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, analyzed U.S. adults under age 65 who participated in the annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) between 1986 and 1994. Respondents first answered detailed questions about their socioeconomic status and health and were then examined by physicians. The CDC tracked study participants to see who died by 2000.

The study found a 40 percent increased risk of death among the uninsured. As expected, death rates were also higher for males (37 percent increase), current or former smokers (102 percent and 42 percent increases), people who said that their health was fair or poor (126 percent increase), and those that examining physicians said were in fair or poor health (222 percent increase).

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, study co-author, professor of medicine at Harvard and a primary care physician in Cambridge, Mass., noted: "Historically, every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of nonprofit national health insurance. Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives."

She added: "Even the most liberal version of the House bill would have left 17 million uninsured, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The whittled down Senate bill will be worse — leaving tens of millions uninsured, and tens of thousands dying because of lack of care. Without the administrative savings only attainable through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer reform — real universal coverage will remain unaffordable. Politicians are protecting insurance industry profits by sacrificing American lives."

Dr. David Himmelstein, study co-author and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, remarked, "The Institute of Medicine, using older studies, estimated that one American dies every 30 minutes from lack of health insurance. Even this grim figure is an underestimate — now one dies every 12 minutes."

"Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults," Andrew P. Wilper, M.D., M.P.H., Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H., Karen E. Lasser, M.D., M.P.H., Danny McCormick, M.D., M.P.H., David H. Bor, M.D., and David U. Himmelstein, M.D. American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 17, 2009 (online); print edition Vol. 99, Issue 12, December 2009.

A copy of the study, along with a state-by-state breakout of excess deaths from lack of insurance, is available at

Physicians for a National Health Program ( is a research and educational organization of 17,000 doctors who support single-payer national health insurance. To speak with a physician/spokesperson in your area, visit or call (312) 782-6006.

Source: Physicians for a National Health Program

A full text copy of the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health is here (PDF).

A state-by-state breakout of excess deaths from lack of insurance, is available here (PDF)

More From Dr. Steve:

There are 11 million Americans with chronic physical illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and asthma are not getting the medical care they need because they don’t have health insurance. The uninsured have higher rates of stroke and cardiovascular disease deaths. The American Cancer Society found that uninsured cancer patients are nearly twice as likely to die within five years as those with private coverage.

Overall, the United States has the highest rate of so-called "amenable" mortality among 19 OECD countries; that's 101,000 fewer deaths per year if we were as good as the average of the top three. But forget studies and just think for a moment. It matters if you got the mammogram last year, or get "treated" in the ER for untreatable metastatic breast cancer today. It matters if you if get your lipids checked and started on statins five years ago because you have coverage, or get "treated" in the ER for your fatal heart attack today. Let me be a little bit more clear. This attitude by right wing Republican idealogues is not just delusional, it is homicidal. They are justifying the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. That is the equivalent of seven 9/11's per year, year-in and year-out.

Hospitals are getting killed financially in part because of the dumping of care into emergency rooms. They are closing ERs all over the country because of this. Meanwhile wait times in the ER are up even for the critically ill. This is not new news. Everyone who knows anything about health care in the country knows this.

And let's not forget that half of personal bankruptcies are linked to health care costs (admittedly the studies on this predate the mortgage crisis; though of course right-wing free-market fundamentalist privatization and deregulation led to that disaster too). Of course that includes lots of people "with" health insurance from the same private for-profit health insurance companies

The Baucus Plan Punishes Single People -- Especially Single Moms.

by Dana Goldstein

I want to say a little more about the "free rider" provision in the Baucus health plan, which Tim highlighted this morning. The HELP Committee and House bills require most employers to provide health insurance for their workers. But the Baucus plan does not include such an employer mandate. Instead, it requires companies to partially reimburse the government for the insurance affordability credits of uninsured workers and their dependents.

This creates some very perverse incentives. It discourages companies from hiring single people, who don't have a spouse whose employer-provided insurance will cover them, thus offering the employer an "out" on the subsidy payback. It encourages employers to pressure married, uninsured workers to go into their spouse's health plans, even if the worker feels they'd get better coverage for a lower cost on the exchange. And worst of all, it particularly discourages firms from hiring single people with children, because they'd have to pay for the children's subsidies, as well.

We know who'll be affected most by this bad, bad idea: low-income women, who are already pushed into "pink collar" jobs with more unstable hours, less benefits, and less pay than similarly educated men. Now even those jobs will be harder for single moms to get, as employers weigh whether a worker earning $15,000 or $20,000 a year is worth paying an extra several thousand dollars for, because of this subsidy payback requirement. Why not just hire someone without kids? Or someone married?

None of the health reform bills in front of Congress do enough to dismantle the link between work, marriage, and health insurance. This system especially hurts women, since only 38 percent of women have health coverage through their own job, compared to 50 percent of men. It is unjust for women to have to consider what will happen to their health coverage -- and their children's -- if they leave an abusive relationship, for example. But while the House and HELP bills mostly maintain the status quo, the Baucus bill would make things much worse.

Source: The American Prospect


This video is really well done. Needs wider exposure.

Workers Face Higher Costs for Employer-Sponsored Insurance

Employers struggling with the steady rise of health insurance costs – which in 2009 increased 5 percent to an average of $13,375 for family coverage -- are passing on more of the expense to their workers through higher deductibles and co-payments, according to survey released today.
Since 1999, health insurance premiums have soared 131 percent -- more than triple the rise in workers' wages and four times the overall inflation rate, the report said.

Paul Fronstin, senior research associate at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, said that "employers see raising deductibles as the easiest way to control costs." The higher deductibles are one reason why premiums have been going up more slowly in recent years. "It’s a crude instrument, but it does the job," he said.

Read it all at Kaiser Health News

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rockefeller Decimates Co-ops in Letter to Baucus and Grassley

In this letter, he states:

health insurance co-ops are not a real alternative to private health insurance and they are not a substitute for a strong public plan option, and we should not suggest to the American people that they would be.

Sen. Rockefeller did research on the history of coops and the applicability to the heath insurance field. He wrote letters to the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Government Accounting Office (GAO) requesting detailed information about the current role of insurance coops in the heath care field.

In his letter to Baucus and Grassley, he describes what he found out as "astounding."

Read it all at Daily Kos

Poll: Big Majorities Dismiss Leading Right Wing Health Care Attacks As “Scare Tactics” |

Hard to believe some days, but apparently, a large portion of the country is still sane:

Buried in a new Bloomberg poll is evidence that solid majorities dismiss all the leading right wing health care talking points as “scare tactics.”

Read it all at The Plum Line

Burris: No public option, no 'yes' on health reform from me

Illinois Sen. Roland Burris served notice a short time ago that Democrats might have problems other than the Republican variety in getting health-care reform legislation out of the Senate.

Burris, a Democrat, announced that any legislation lacking provisions establishing a public entity to compete with insurance companies would not get his vote in the Senate.

Given that the new legislation unveiled today by Sen. Max Baucus lacks the so-called public option in favor of less controversial cooperatives, Burris’s decision could signal trouble from liberals in the Senate as well as in the House.

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AFL-CIO Unanimously Endorses Single-Payer - Medicare-for-All - Healthcare

by National Nurses Movement
Wed Sep 16, 2009

The campaign for the most comprehensive healthcare reform of all, single payer, won a huge boost Tuesday as the AFL-CIO voted unanimously at its national convention in Pittsburgh to endorse the enactment of single-payer, universal healthcare.

The vote came shortly after the convention was addressed by President Obama who repeated his call for comprehensive healthcare reform, and will accompany another AFL-CIO resolution supporting other Congressional efforts to pass comprehensive reform.

It marked the first time in some two decades that the AFL-CIO, the leading voice of the American labor movement, which includes 56 unions and more than 10 million members, has been formally on record in support of single-payer, which would essentially expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans.

Statements by a host of delegates on the resolution, which was sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the Alameda County (California) Central Labor Council, affirmed for many that even after a bill is passed in Congress, the fight will continue.

In urging its support, CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro, an AFL-CIO National Vice-President, noted the recent death of Crystal Lee Sutton, the real-life union organizer from the film Norma Rae who died last week after a long battle with cancer, exacerbated by her own three-year fight with her insurance company.

"No one should spend the last days of their life fighting with their insurance company," said DeMoro. "We should not make choices of who gets healthcare based on their ethnicity, gender, or economic status. But I am addressing the labor movement, not Wall Street. And we all know what is the right thing – the moral thing – single-payer healthcare."

The resolution notes that "the experience of Medicare (and of nearly every other industrialized country) shows the most cost-effective and equitable way to provide quality healthcare is through a single-payer system. Our nation should provide a single high standard of comprehensive care for all." It also sites specific single-payer bills, including HR 676, which has 86 cosponsors in Congress.

It also followed a reception hosted by CNA/NNOC and other unions Monday night featuring filmmaker Michael Moore whose previous film SiCKO presaged the current national debate with its indictment of the healthcare industry, and was on hand to premiere his latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story to the AFL-CIO convention.

Moore recalled that 65 years ago President Franklin Roosevelt proposed a second bill of rights which called for a right to universal medical care, a fight that continues. He noted that every day the healthcare industry spends over $1 million to block reform while thousands of Americans continue to lose coverage, and urged labor and community activists to keep up the fight.

Regardless of the outcome of the current healthcare legislative action, said United Steel Workers President Leo Gerard, "we’re going to continue the fight for single-payer. I’m not in favor of universal insurance, I’m in favor of universal healthcare. We are going to fight to make sure every single American gets high quality healthcare."

"We know the patient care crisis, we see it every day," said CNA/NNOC co-president Zenei Cortez, RN at the reception. "We will not rest until we get rid of the private insurance companies that profit off of suffering."

Greg Junemann, president of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and chair of the HR 676 Labor Caucus, which has won similar endorsements from hundreds of international and local unions and state and local labor federations, noted to the convention the unity of labor in fighting for real reform. He also cited the ongoing fight of workers every day to protect the health coverage many have now.

"The labor movement needs to set our flag on the top of the mountain, and that we will not rest until we have single-payer healthcare for all," said Junemann.

Clyde Rivers, past president of the California School Employees Association, noted the huge drain of healthcare costs on California schools and school workers. The Los Angeles school district, he noted, "could save $20 billion if we had single payer. Think of all the programs that could be put back in place" if those resources were returned.

Donna DeWitt, president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, who noted to groans and jeers that her governor is Mark Sanford and her Congress member is Joe Wilson, added that "we understand struggle and that struggle makes us stronger."

Labor unions around the country have been in the forefront of grassroots actions around the nation in support of single-payer and many labor bodies submitted resolutions to the national convention in support of an endorsement. It was also the culmination of a growing, national push within the labor movement. More than 566 labor organizations, including 22 international unions, 134 central labor councils, and 39 state AFL-CIO federations, have also endorsed HR 676.

Labor has been central to enactment of similar systems around the world, DeMoro noted, in her comments paying tribute as well to the many international guests at the convention.

She pointed out how most of them represent industrial nations where no one dies from lack of health coverage or goes bankrupt or loses homes due to un-payable medical bills.

"The reason? Because they have single-payer or other national healthcare systems, and because your labor movement led the fight for healthcare. Here insurance companies are at the apex of power, controlling our lives. It is not the public option we should be questioning, it is the private option and its horrendous power over our families," DeMoro said.

"When we meet again in four years, perhaps if we adopt single-payer, we will be like all our international brothers and sisters in this room, and no longer be the richest nation in the world but just 37th in healthcare," DeMoro said.

Cross-posted from Daily Kos

AFL-CIO Convention Endorses Single-Payer
Unanimous Vote for Medicare-for-All Reform

PITTSBURGH – In a historic vote that adds the nation’s leading voice of American workers to a broad national campaign, the AFL-CIO voted unanimously at its national convention here today to endorse the enactment of single-payer, universal healthcare for all Americans.

The resolution was sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the Alameda County (California) Central Labor Council.